Film review by: Witney Seibold
I’m afraid I may not be able to my full critical duty on a film like Shawn Levy‘s “Date Night,” as I think the advertising has already, in a holistic fashion, managed to convey exactly what “Date Night” is. Roger Ebert has said the following of most modern theatrical trailers: They can be compared to the cheese samples you find at the grocery store; from a small sample, you know exactly what it tastes like, and you only buy the cheesewheel so you can have more. “Date Night” is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s no more high-concept than it seeks to be, and it’s no more lowbrow than it needs to be. It’s no an inert film; indeed, it’s rather quickly paced, and, at times, rather amusing. But it’s not a film that will provide any freshness, nor stellar use of the sitcom material. The director has previously worked in childrens’ live-action TV, and made the remake of “The Pink Panther,” so we know we’re in somewhat-bland-yet-perfectly-passable pop entertainment.
Indeed, I feel the film was only made to put two of the funniest working comedians on the screen together: Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I think they’re both capable actors and, as revealed in the post-credits blooper reel, are masters of hysterical ad-libbing. Watching that blooper reel, you get the feeling that the film’s crew were constantly being moved to hysterics by Carell and Fey’s wit. It’s too bad, then, that they had to work in the confines of a silly action-comedy script like this one.
Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a fortysomething couple living in the suburbs on New Jersey with their two young children. They are relatively well-off, comfortable, and growing bored; their romantic times together have become kind of mechanical. In a fit of romantic rebellion, they agree to go to a ritzy restaurant in New York on a proper romantic date, just like the old days, to prove to themselves that they can be energetic again. At the restaurant, they end up stealing the reservation of another couple, which leads, in a circuitous way, to the two of them being chased by a pair of corrupt cops bent on killing them.
The rest of the 90-minutes is occupied by slapstick action, witty one-liners, and wacky setups. We see a shirtless Mark Wahlberg as a high-powered computer hacker, Mila Kunis Nude and James Franco as a pair of layabout low-rent criminals, Ray Liotta as a sputtering gangster, and William Fichtner as a libidinous DA. Eventually, Phil and Claire must do the following: steal a car, wreck several cars, steal a boat, steal a gun, break into a building, break into a strip club, and perform a couple’s striptease in sexy outfits. The comic potential is realized to a perfectly average, and perfectly amusing level.
If you want more anarchy, I’m afraid you won’t find it here. But, despite my kind of average description of the film, I cannot fault it for being unfunny; it is indeed high-energy, fat, paced, and made just well enough. It will do as an afternoon’s entertainment. Enjoy.
Is it me, or is Tina Fey getting hotter?