Even Comedy's Dynamic Duo Can't Save Date Night
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 9 Apr
DVD Release Date: August 10, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: April 9, 2010
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference)
Run Time: 88 min.
Director: Shawn Levy
Actors: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Leighton Meester, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jimmi Simpson
As those who regularly watch The Office and 30 Rock already know, Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two very funny actors.
Ultimately, it's a testament to their respective comedic talents that Date Night, their first big-screen pairing, isn't a total bust. Somehow in the midst of bad writing (trust me, the movie's best lines are probably improvised) and a hackneyed case of missing identity that grows increasingly sillier as the minutes tick by, Carell and Fey still shine as two New Jersey suburbanites trying to keep their marital spark alive with a little night-on-the-town spontaneity.
Like many modern couples trying to raise kids while working full-time, too, Phil (Carell) and Claire (Fey) don't have a lot of extra time to devote to their relationship, save for the weekly date night they're often too tired to really enjoy. But sleepy or not, they always make time for the requisite salmon and potato skins dinner at the local steakhouse, the sort of routine outing that Claire's friend Haley (Kristen Wiig) says inevitably caused the demise of her marriage to Brad (Mark Ruffalo).
Shocked by their friends' break-up due to sheer boredom, Phil and Claire are determined not to follow suit. Deciding to get all dressed up for a change, Claire discovers that Phil has a surprise of his own, namely an alternate plan for this week's date night. Since the city isn't that far away, he initiates a surprise trip to Manhattan for dinner at the chicest new seafood joint, Claw. While Claire thinks it's a particularly risky move, considering they don't even have a reservation, Phil finally convinces her they'll have no trouble getting in.
And yes, as you probably guessed, this is where things start going horribly awry.
After being treated in a less than classy fashion by the restaurant's maître d' (a particularly amusing commentary on the trendy NYC dining scene if there ever was one) and relegated to the bar until a table becomes available, Phil eventually grows tired of waiting. So when the hostess announces that a table for the "Tripplehorn" party has become available, Phil steps in and proclaims that he and Claire are the Tripplehorns.
After enjoying the spoils of truly delicious dining, not to mention an impromptu photo op with Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am, a couple of hoodlums (Common and Jimmi Simpson) eventually show up at the Tripplehorns' table and not-so-politely insist they follow them outside—pronto.
As Phil and Claire are led outside to the decidedly ominous dark alley, Claire is ultimately more concerned about saving her leftover risotto than anything else. But when the shady-looking guys (who naturally moonlight as NYPD cops and report to cinema's go-to bad guy, Ray Liotta) demand they hand over the flash drive while pointing guns at them, well, Phil and Claire's date night quickly becomes anything but boring.
Coincidentally, that's when the movie takes a serious nosedive in the entertainment department. More Adventures in Babysitting than North by Northwest, Date Night is supposed to be simultaneously thrilling and amusing when two amateurs like Phil and Claire make their foray into high-stakes crime to save their own lives.
But their questionable, sometimes even law-breaking shenanigans just aren't that memorable. Every scenario falls flat, whether Phil and Claire are embarking on a high-speed chase after stealing a sports car from one of Claire's former clients (an amusing Mark Wahlberg whose insistence on being shirtless is a funny nod to his Marky Mark era) or engaging in a fact-finding mission by pole-dancing for another corrupt official at a sleazy gentleman's club.
Even at a taut 88 minutes, the film still feels overly long, and during its most inane moments, I found myself wondering how Carell and Fey's TV alter-egos Michael Scott and Liz Lemon, the masters of the awkward situation, would've fare as a couple in similar circumstances. Now that would've been an interesting movie! But Date Night? Yeah, not so much.
Trust me, two funny people like Carell and Fey, not to mention the people who love watching them, deserve better— far better.
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking plus the real Tripplehorns (played by James Franco and Mila Kunis) have a propensity for glue sniffing.
Language/Profanity: A steady stream of expletives used throughout including one use of the "f" word and misuses of the Lord's name.
Sex/Nudity: Much of the humor is of a lowbrow, sexual nature and anatomical terms are used in a crude way. There's discussion of sex (or the lack thereof) in married people's lives. The book that Phil and Claire are reading for book club discusses a girl's first menstruation. One scene takes place in a gentleman's club (several people's sexual fetishes are discussed), and Phil and Claire try to get information out of a corrupt NYPD cop by having Claire dress and dance suggestively.
Violence: There's some gunfire and a high-speed chase where the car ends up in the river (the passenger survives).
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.