Carell and Fey almost save this “Date Night”
If at some point in the future Tina Fey and Steve Carell are asked to work together again –and the talented couple absolutely should-then perhaps their first film romp together, “Date Night” will have been worth it.
It’s TV’s most famous comedy duo (she of “30 Rock” he of “The Office”) that offer the highlights in “Date Night” which features a nearly perfect cast going through some pretty silly and awfully vulgar (for a PG-13 rom-com anyway) motions in a threadbare plot that nonetheless proves Fey and Carell deserve much better material. (And so do their fans).
As husband and wife Phil and Claire Foster, they try to escape the mundane life of suburbanites dealing with careers, kids, and the boring rituals of the daily grind. The opening sequences are some of the films’ best as Carell and Fey’s comic timing and sensibilities are in perfect pitch. We laugh at their pain because we’ve been there-most notably in the bedroom banter that underscores the couple’s perfunctory patterns to hilarious effect.
Things get more dangerous when the couple score a table at a swanky Manhattan eatery only to be misidentified by some goons who make back-alley demands at gunpoint. Thus sets in motion the goofball hoops the couple must jump through to stay one step ahead of the bad guys while solving the mystery of the highly volatile contents of a flash drive.
Some funny bits that involve a rather inventively choreographed car chase scene and a shirtless Mark Wahlberg overdue their stay at the expense of the brief but enjoyable appearances of Ray Liotta, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, and Mila Kunis as supporting characters in a film that ends up more a caper comedy with some very adult humor — apparently for PG-13 movies it is now totally acceptable to use genitalia references without limit.
The filmmakers could not have been asking for anything witty or a product that matched the skill set of Carell and Fey. That’s obvious by selecting Shawn Levy as director whose credits include “Pink Panther,” “Cheaper By the Dozen,” and “Just Married,” films that do nothing to embellish the actors involved. Even his “Night at the Museum” films were more a triumph of good ideas and CGI effects than anything else.
Here’s hoping Steve Carell and Tina Fey will be offered more opportunities to work with scripts and filmmakers who allow them to reach their potential together rather than material that forces them to rescue it.
Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, violence and a drug reference.