A drab tab for "Date Night"

April 12, 2010, 12:46 p.m. | By Mandy Xu | 14 years, 1 month ago

Witty dialogue is sacrificed for bland action sequences

Fans of "The Office" and "30 Rock" will surely rejoice the day sardonic Liz Lemon and clueless Michael Scott meet. Well, "Date Night" comes close to a successful collaboration between comedic geniuses Tina Fey and Steve Carell. It's just too bad that director Sean Levy, of "Night at the Museum" fame, didn't trust these actors to do what they do best.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a loving suburban couple from New Jersey. Their names tell everything about them - sensible, nice, but boring. They've got a great house and kids, but they've settled into a monotonous routine. It has gotten to the point where even date night feels like an obligation. On date night, to get out of their rut, Phil spontaneously takes a no-show couple's reservations under the name "Tripplehorn" at a pretentiously hip restaurant in New York City. The night takes a turn for the worse when two hit men reveal that the real Tripplehorns are actually being hunted down for stealing property from some very dangerous people. Forced on the run before they've even finished their risotto, Phil and Claire Foster are in for a night they will never forget.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Carell and Fey carry the movie, which is a truly a heavy burden. Their talent shines through the Hollywood muck of movie clichés. These actors have no problem being humiliated, and they can get through embarrassment with incredible integrity. The film pokes fun at Generation X and how out of the loop they are with pop culture. Cue scenes of Claire Foster wondering what a flash drive is and Phil Foster wondering who Will. I. Am. is.

The best part of the "Date Night" is the chemistry between the Carell and Fey. Their comedic timing is on the dot. The most entertaining scenes contained just simple dialogue – not slapstick comedy or obnoxious explosions. Carell and Fey didn't have extensive scenes with annoying banter, and convincingly portrayed a couple in love.

That said, the action sequences were simply unnecessary. This could have been an excellent satire on suburban complacency, one that stealthily inserts intelligent social commentary. Instead, Sean Levy decided to force "Date Night" into the action-marriage comedy mold that films such as "Did You Hear About the Morgans" and "Bounty Hunter" claim.

Still, "Date Night" is miles ahead of those films thanks to support from Mark Wahlberg, James Franco and Mila Kunis. Wahlberg's shirtless scenes rivaled Taylor Lautner's. Phil and Claire's polar reactions to this are nothing short of hilarious. Franco and Kunis injected their own highly-styled form of comedy. Franco and Kunis drew inspiration from their characters in "Pineapple Express" and "That 70s Show", respectively. This movie would be monumental if it was solely comprised with interactions between Carell, Fey, Wahlberg, Franco and Kunis.

Despite all its flaws and irreverence, "Date Night" is still a hilarious light-hearted film.

Date Night is rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

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