The combination of America’s two best comedic talents in Steve Carell and Tina Fey makes Date Night a film worth watching.
That it’s directed by a filmmaker of less than adequate taste in Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther, Night at the Museum) shouldn’t discourage viewers. Date Night works because of who is on the screen, not behind it.
Its core story is as old as time: Carell and Fey play the Fosters, a married couple whose work and family lives have put out the spark in their relationship, the pair selling the banality of their on screen marriage beautifully.
A change of routine in their one night of freedom – date night – sees the Jersey couple travel into New York City for a night of trendy dining. You know, the kind filled with ghastly fashionable decor, overpriced food, and asshole staff.
What follows is a series of off the cuff plot points involving mistaken identity, hoods packing heat giving chase through the city, and other crime movie clichés involving corruption in the upper echelons of power.
Had Date Night been a vehicle for Gerard Butler and (insert fashionable leading lady), it would not have legs to stand on, let alone knees to beg for forgiveness.
Yet the casting of Carell and Fey lifts the film from the low depths of rom-com-adventure hell, and shapes it into a constantly entertaining comedy, albeit one light of hard laughs.
Chemistry is the key word here, yet it is not of the sexual kind but the comedic, with Fey and Carell riffing off each other with expert ease while playing suburban squares delving deeper into the seedy underbelly of New York City, with the wilder the scenarios the better the pay off, as seen in a John Landis inspired form of auto carnage and an impromptu erotic pole dance.
Unlike last year’s star heavy The Invention of Lying, this film features a steady stream of celeb cameos which adds to rather than clutters its breezy off the wall nature: a shirtless Mark Wahlberg effortlessly pokes fun at his macho image; James Franco and Mila Kulis are infectiously fun as a pair of tough talking hoods; and Ray Liotta does his mob boss shtick with ease.
Make no mistake: this is not the best we have or will see from either Carell or Fey. But as far as high concept rom-com’s go, Date Night proves to be a stand out in a field of bland misfires (i.e. The Bounty Hunter).