© 2010 Ray Wong
How do you put two of the funniest actors on Earth into one film and make it unfunny? I guess we'll have to ask Shawn Levy and Josh Klausner.
Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) are a married couple living in a New Jersey suburb. They lead a normal and boring life with two kids -- Phil is an accountant and Claire is a real estate agent. They work all day and are too busy to raise two kids, they hardly have time for themselves, let alone each other. Every week, however, they manage to go on a "date night" just to get out of the house. When they hear their best friends are splitting up, they desperately want to do something "special" so they won't go down the same road.
They settle for an upscale, hip, popular restaurant in Manhattan for a special night out. Without a reservation, however, on a whim they decide to take the place of two no-shows, the Tripplehorns. During the meal, they get found out and are escorted out by two men, Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson) and Collins (Common), who turn out to be thugs working for a gangster (Ray Liotta). Apparently, they've been mistaken for the real Tripplehorns and their lives are being threatened unless they give up a "flash-drive."
They barely escape, and when they realize Armstrong and Collins are both cops, they know they and their children can't be safe until they find the real Tripplehorns and locate the said flash-drive. Claire then suggests a former client of hers, Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg), who is a military and security consultant, to help them find the flash-drive. A wild goose chase ensures.
Steve Carell (Get Smart) has had a string of duds lately, as far as his movie career is concerned, and he hopes to reverse the trend with Date Night. Unfortunately, he keeps playing the same Average-Joe schmuck that he so successfully created with the likes of The Office and Dan in Real Life. Here, he seems to have sleep-walked with the role, and is generally unfunny. Tina Fey (Baby Mama) is equally dull as the wife. She is so much better and funnier and nuttier in 30 Rock. So why can't these two funny actors take a leap to the big screen without losing their mojos?
Mark Wahlberg (The Lovely Bones), on the other hand, is rather droll as the studly security consultant. He has some good lines and is a good sport playing off Carell and Fey. Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is good as Detective Arroyo, but that role is so small it really doesn't matter who's in it. Jimmi Simpson (Good Intentions) and Common (Terminator Salvation) are adequately sinister as the two henchmen, but they're not given enough chances to flex their comedic muscles. William Fichtner (The Dark Knight) is surprisingly goofy and interesting as D.A. Frank Crenshaw.
Brief and unimpressive cameos include Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo as friends of the Fosters, James Franco and Mila Kunis as the "Tripplehorns," Will i Am as himself, and Ray Liotta as the gangster boss.
Written by Josh Klausner (Shrek the Third), the screenplay is dull and implausible. It's also astonishingly unfunny. Most of the time, the situations are forced and unconvincing. It also relies on the actors to improvise; sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. Mostly, the plot is weak and contrived. The setup is clichéd and predictable, so is the ending. It lacks certain edge to make this a true dark comedy. It also lacks the proper subtlety and dynamics to make it a great screwball comedy. It is too lame to be a gross-out comedy. So at the end, it is just not very comedic.
Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum), unfortunately, gives it a digital video look. I understand it gives the film a certain feel of immediacy and realism, but it just looks cheap, like a low budget movie (and I'm sure, with all the stars, it's not a low budget film). The pacing seems off at times. The middle doesn't go anywhere -- it just drags. The ending is implausible and too silly for words.
Like I said, with the star power of Carell and Fey, this movie feels more like a desperate attempt to make us laugh than genuine entertainment. It's a disappointment -- not something you'd like to watch on a date night… or any night at all.
Stars: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson, Common, William Fichtner
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Josh Klausner
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual and crude content, language, violence and drug references
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 5.8 out of 10