Date Night
Not exactly the reaction I was looking for but …

Theatrical Release Date: 04/09/2010
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson, Common, William Fichtner, Leighton Meester, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Olivia Munn, Ray Liotta (uncredited)

Does the first Wednesday of the month mean it’s time to hire a babysitter and spend an evening alone with your spouse? Has the oomph in your relationship withered and lapsed into hibernation? Well, maybe a night spent running from armed men and becoming entangled in a blackmail scheme will spice things up. At least, that’s the premise of the new comedy “Date Night”, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey.

They play a stereotypical married couple, whose passion has given way for routine and obligation. In an effort to bring some romance back, they ditch their usual date night spot and journey into the Big Apple for dinner at a trendy new eatery. Things go awry when they are mistaken for another couple holding secrets about a notorious gangster for ransom. The NYPD, shirtless secret agent Mark Wahlberg and a tough on crime D.A. played by William Fichtner all come into play and the night turns into a stilted set of chase sequences and predictable setups.

Although much of her trademark sarcasm and cynicism is on display, it’s important to note this is not written by Tina Fey. What audiences are given is a script lacking pace or energy and while many of the actors were able to breathe life into their lines, the picture lumbers along like a sleepy cow. All of the humor is meant to derive from a suburban milk toast couple who know nothing about the seedy underbelly of the big, bad city. As the trailer denoted, a gun cocked sideways is a “kill shot” … that’s not just a joke but a running gag … yeah, that’s the kind of stuff going on here. And whenever the film slows down to showcase the sweetness of the marriage, whatever momentum may have been building comes to a screeching halt.

For their part, Carell and Fey are cast well for the premise and share a likable chemistry. Wahlberg makes for a fun supporting role (did I mention he never wears a shirt?) and there’s even a Taraji P. Henson sighting (who gets nothing in the script to work with). The standouts however are Fichtner and the pair playing the couple that Carell and Fey are mistaken for (James Franco and Mila Kunis).

Fichtner turns a awkwardly terrible setup of our married heroes dancing on a pole at a strip club into something I actually laughed at. He plays it straight and reacts to their tired and sad dance moves with the enthusiasm of a teenage boy seeing breasts for the first time. Without his reactions, I’d have been looking for a long strand of rope. Franco and Kunis are the “naughty” version of Carell and Fey whose relationships are distorted mirrors of one another. Their interplay makes for probably the most entertaining scene of the film and it’s a shame it’s the only one with them in it.

The bottom line is that, while sweet at times, “Date Night” just doesn’t deliver consistent laughs. A 2.5 out of 5, if you’re looking for a bland evening out and don’t want to rock the boat, I can see checking this out. If either Carell or Fey aren’t your cup of tea, steer clear. If you really need a comedy, really the only choice out there (and a decent one at that) is “Hot Tub Time Machine“. Otherwise, just save up your nickels for repeated viewings of “Kick-Ass” when it opens on April 16th.