Movie Mind Says: Add to Online Rental List
If You Like This You Should Watch: The Man Who Knew Too Little, Get Smart, Pineapple Express
Better Than: Fun With Dick & Jane, Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Worse Than: The 40 Year Old Virgin, Blind Date
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg
Struggling for something to say about a movie is not something The Movie Mind typically deals with. I think the fact that it is happening with my review of Date Night says more about the film than it does about my lack of witty descriptive phrases. It’s like I forgot what I wanted to say about it. In fact, forgettable is probably the most appropriate thing to say after all. Not necessarily forgettable in a bad way, just not very memorable. After watching the movie, it felt like something I’ve seen a dozen times and was never really surprised or caught off guard by anything, from the jokes to the plot. For a film that bills itself on a crazy night out on the town, it makes for a very ordinary one to those going to see it.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey play the Foster’s, your everyday married folks with a white picket fence and two-and-a-half kids, who feel stuck in a rut. After learning about their close friends getting a divorce, they head out for an adventurous night in the city but get a whole different adventure than what they bargained for. After stealing the reservations of another couple (James Franco and Mila Kunis) who are being pursued by some bad people, it turns into your standard cat and mouse game from there on out: Avoid the bad guys, try to bring them down, reunite the flame and passion that has lacked so long in their daily lives, and solve the case. Ho-hum. Not that this wouldn’t have been a sufficient story if Carell and Fey were on their A-games, but they weren’t (or weren’t allowed to be).
My confusion comes from the weak attempt for this to be a romantic comedy. Carell and Fey have more of a close-cousins vibe going than a shot at a renewed love affair after a stagnant married life. Individually, I do think they are brilliant performers, it’s just that I don’t really feel it when they are together. Carell was much more toned down than he had been in his other comedies, but the role lacked any of the depth he showed in Dan in Real Life or Little Miss Sunshine. Fey is always reliable and actually stole most of the scenes in my opinion. The other major problem lies with the rest of the cast and characters, beginning with bad guys who are more suitable for a gangster or drug kingpin movie than a romantic comedy / adventure. Marky Mark is fine in his role, but if you’ve seen the coming attractions then you’ve seen the extent of it. James Franco and Mila Kunis are serviceable, but they really don’t add up in terms of their involvement, nor do they provide any additional comedic relief. Not to mention, I’m never sold on James Franco’s ability to be convincing in anything.
I am probably coming across a bit too strong, as there were a few decent scenes and some funny lines. The problem is that they were sandwiched between a lot of fluff and way too much time was spent developing a boring storyline overall. I would have appreciated Carell much more if he was set loose to roll with Fey throughout. Instead, it just felt extremely scripted. While that may sound like a dumb statement to make when basically all movies are scripted, the difference is that they great ones make us forget that is the case. Disappointingly, Date Night was unable to pull off that feat.
Interesting Cameo Appearance: Ray Liotta (aka the incomparable Henry Hill in Goodfellas, in addition to numerous other memorable roles and a nice voice-over in Grand-Theft Auto: Vice City) as mob crime boss, Joe Miletto.
Claire Foster: Honey, if I’m gonna get whacked off, I… [Phil snickers]
Claire Foster: What are you smiling about?
Phil Foster: No, no, we might get bumped off. We’re not going to get whacked off.
Claire Foster: I think we are!
Phil Foster: He turned the gun sideways! That’s a kill shot!
Phil Foster: …And will you, for the love of God, put on a f*cking shirt?
Claire Foster: If we are going to pay this much for crab it better sing and dance and introduce us to the Little Mermaid!