Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, Common, Jimmi Simpson, Kristen Wiig, Leighton Meester, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Ray Liotta
RunTime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG (Some Coarse Language and Sexual References)
Official Website: www.datenight-movie.com
Opening Day: 8 April 2010
Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell) are a typical suburban couple whose lives – including their weekly date nights of dinner and a movie – have become routine. To reignite the marital spark, they visit a trendy Manhattan bistro where a case of mistaken identity turns their evening into the ultimate date night-gone-awry. But as Claire and Phil take their unexpected walk on the wild side, they begin to remember what made them so special together.
Is it too much to expect "Date Night" to be absolutely hilarious? I think not.
From his surprise hit "The 40 Year Old Virgin", Steve Carell has continuously established himself as one of the funniest comedians in Hollywood of this era, parlaying his comedic chops to hilarious effect in the hit sitcom, "The Office". Tina Fey too is one of the most gifted comedians of our generation, displaying her sharp cerebral wit to palpable effect in numerous "Saturday Night Live" episodes and most recently in the hit sitcom, "30 Rock".
It is therefore with bated breath that this reviewer looks forward to their maiden pairing, and a definitely inspired one I must add, in "Date Night". Alas, what should have been an uproariously funny affair is sadly just mediocre, coaxing only the occasional chuckle and the rare guffaw.
What went wrong, you ask? Certainly not the pairing- no, Carell and Fey are, as expected, brilliant next to each other, both experts at deadpan humour playing off each other's lines, even quite evidently improvising on set to largely positive results. But their valiant attempts ultimately go only so far to rescue a contrived script by Josh Klausner (of "Shrek the Third" and "Shrek Forever After"), a script lazy and derivative in both its plot and its setups.
Indeed, right from its 'mistaken identity' moment where Carell and Fey's suburban couple Phil and Claire Foster get mixed up for the "Tripplehorns", Klausner rolls out every crooked cop and mob boss cliché that you've already seen from dozens of other movies. There are no surprises to be found here, for everything unfolds so predictably and unimaginatively that what plot developments seem at best redundant.
As if in tacit acknowledgement of this fact, director Shawn Levy (of "Night at the Museum" and its sequel) make up for the script's lack thereof with great casting. Especially amusing is Mark Wahlberg's perpetually shirtless security consultant Grant Holbrooke whom Fey's Claire Foster turns 'giggly and flirtatious' upon meeting, as her husband describes. Wahlberg gleefully sends up his regular macho-guy image, clearly relishing his role in the film.
So too James Franco's tattoo-covered gangster character Taste, the Tripplehorn Carell's Phil Foster is mistaken for- as with "Pineapple Express", Franco once again evidently enjoys the foul-mouthed character he plays, complete with some very funny verbal sparring with Carell. There are also bit roles played by instantly recognizable faces- Mark Ruffalo as the recently-divorced husband, Ray Liotta as the mobster after Phil and Claire and Prison Break's William Fichtner as the district attorney with a perverse secret- and certainly it is a pleasant surprise the star power Levy has assembled for this movie.
But unmistakeably, "Date Night" would be otherwise devoid of much of its charm or laughs were it not for its two leads, Carell and Fey. Proving they are not just good comedians, the pair of gifted actors get you to empathise with their predicament of a long-married couple, where the humdrum of everyday routine has taken the fizzle out of their married life and even date nights are regular predictable affairs. Its message that marriage so easily taken for granted in fact needs work from time to time may not be new, but Carell and Fey's sincerity will still win you over.
Quite simply, Carell and Fey are "Date Night's" greatest assets. It's hard to imagine a better pair of leads than Carell and Fey in this, and thanks to their well-timed comedic instincts and terrific chemistry, "Date Night" is not an entire waste of time. Still, let's hope they get better material next time round, for there's no doubt they are capable of much, much more.
(Steve Carell's and Tina Fey's sharp comedic timing and brilliant chemistry save this Date from being a disaster)
Review by Gabriel Chong