- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jamey Codding
erhaps it was inevitable that NBC darlings Steve Carell and Tina Fey would team up on the big screen, considering they front two of network TV's funniest shows ("The Office" and "30 Rock," of course). With that kind of recognition comes oodles of box office potential, and combined with the laughs these two comedians generate in their day jobs, "Date Night" was destined to be one of the year's best comedies, right? Well, as any sports fan will tell you, potential means nothing if you don’t execute on the field, and while the Carell/Fey pairing looks like a winner on paper, “Date Night” somehow just isn’t that funny.
Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple with two kids, demanding jobs and crazy schedules who find themselves in the kind of rut couples (particularly those with children) often fall into. Ah, but they still have date night, their weekly escape from the 5AM breakfast rush and endless hours of housework. Lately, though, even date night has become a predictable drag, with trips to the same local restaurant resulting in the same boring meals and the same mutual apathy in the bedroom at the end of the night. So when a neighboring couple (Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) announces that they've devolved into "perfect roommates" and are getting a divorce, Phil and Claire naturally wonder if they're headed for the same fate. Sensing the need to spice things up, the Fosters give date night a facelift and head downtown to the city's hottest new restaurant, sans reservation, where a silly case of mistaken identity turns their evening (and their lives) upside down.
Unfortunately, Carell and Fey just aren't very believable as the passionless couple, so whether they're dodging bullets in the streets, outrunning the bad guys (Common and Jimmi Simpson) in a stolen car, or arguing about household chores, it's hard to really care. Maybe that's because Phil, an oddball prone to boneheaded mistakes and awkward moments, is a slightly more normal version of Michael Scott while Claire, a neurotic career woman who loves food and is only mildly interested in sex, does a pretty good Liz Lemon impression. Sure, a Carell/Fey duo seemingly makes all sorts of sense, but Michael Scott and Liz Lemon prove to be a pretty poor onscreen match, and “Date Night” suffers because of it.
As if that wasn't enough of a problem, director Shawn Levy apparently forgets midway through his film that he has two of Hollywood’s funniest people at his disposal when he turns his comedy into an action flick, complete with the requisite high-speed car chase and all sorts of artillery. Fortunately, James Franco and Mila Kunis bring some genuine laughs as the couple that Phil and Claire have been mistaken for, J.B. Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") pops up as a cab driver who finds himself on the wrong one-way street, and a shirtless Mark Wahlberg provides the film’s best running gag. None of it, however, is enough to rescue the movie from mediocrity. "Date Night" isn't completely devoid of laughs, but considering the talent involved, you'd expect them to be bigger. (That's what she said.)
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The two-disc release of “Date Night” features all of the usual bonus material – director commentary, deleted/extended scenes, and a gag reel – as well as a slew of other extras like alternate takes, camera tests for Steve Carell and Tina Fey, and a montage that showcases Shawn Levy directing his actors off camera. But the highlight of the set is a featurette called “Directing 301” that delivers an intimate behind-the-scenes look at making the movie that follows Levy and his cast and crew around New York during a series of night shoots. Rounding out the set are some faux PSAs with Carell and Fey, interviews with the cast about their own disaster dates, and a digital copy of the film.