By Dave Campbell | April 9, 2010
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, James Franco, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, Common, Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta, Jimmi Simpson, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo
Claire (Tina Fey) and Phil Foster (Steve Carell) are an average boring married couple from New Jersey with two young kids and a home and sex life that have become routine and humdrum. Claire is a real-estate agent in the current market, while Phil is an accountant who’s financial advice falls on deaf ears with his clients. The Fosters have a weekly date night where they go to the same restaurant and order the same entrées then return home for the possibility of non-spontaneous sex.
After an evening at their friend’s (Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo) house whom are about to announce their divorce, Phil decides to take Claire to the City (New York) for an evening at “Claw”, Manhattan’s newest, most trendy (you better be on the list) seafood restaurant on the island. With no reservation and arriving at prime time, Phil and Claire end up biting off more than they can chew by taking a no-show couple’s reservation. Their simple and innocent move puts them in a case of mistaken identity involving two corrupt NYPD officers (Common, Jimmi Simpson), Manhattan’s District Attorney Frank Crenshaw (William Fichtner), and mob boss Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta) and other eccentric characters in a long night of running for their lives in one outrageous situation after another.
Date Night starts off by quickly establishing the characters in their natural serious environment, so it can be sped up to the wacky antics of the “real plot”. The only saviors of this film that salvage any moments of credibility are the two leads Tina Fey and Steve Carell. The main issues with Date Night are that the jokes seem really cheap and pedestrian, and every memorable/funny moment is represented in the film’s trailer (I hate when they do that). Even though the subject matter is more mature than Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum movies, the delivery and execution of his scenes still flow in an overstated made-for-kids presentation. The story is nothing new and it plays out like Blind Date, or a reverse role version of Adventures in Babysitting. With two power house comedians at the helm, one would expect a more solid slate of material to let them run wild with, ala The 40-Year-Old Virgin & Mean Girls.
Regardless of the negatives Steve Carell and Tina Fey have a very strong onscreen chemistry together, handling timing and subtlety with ease and success. They still manage to find a few moments to make the audience laugh, but it was quite noticeable to me that most of the film I was only wearing a mild smirk. It all comes down to the script even more than the directing; Josh Klausner’s writing is foreseeable and lusterless, leaving you the urge to turn on NBC’s Emmy-winning Thursday night line-up of The Office and 30 Rock for redemption.