Movie Review: DATE NIGHT

Date Night is a flawed movie with plot holes bigger than Central Park but boy, is it funny. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are sharp comic actors who manage to elevate a script that might have turned into an unwatchable movie if it had starred, say, Matthew McConaughey and Katherine Heigl.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, “a boring couple from New Jersey” who starts re-evaluating their lives after learning their friends Brad and Haley (Mark Ruffalo and Kristin Wiig) are separating. To spice things up, they decide to have date night in NYC at the latest hot spot in town, a pretentious restaurant called Claw with prices that make Phil say, “I’ll just suck on a napkin.” Not having a reservation, they take the one belonging to “the Tripplehorns” when that couple doesn’t show. This seemingly harmless stunt results in an outrageous, all-night adventure that involves mob bosses, strippers, corrupt cops and politicians. Yes, it strains credulity but fuggedaboutit, you’re there for the laughs, not the logic.

What also seems unbelievable is that Carell and Fey never worked together before this or knew each other well. Theirs is such a lived-in, real-world chemistry that I had to keep reminding myself they’re not really married to each other. Their comic rhythms are perfectly synced, making every scene as funny as possible without looking like they’re trying too hard.

The rest of the cast consists of many name actors, most of whom are criminally underused. Taraji P. Henson, who excels in emotionally complex roles, is wasted as a tough cop. Ruffalo and Wiig don’t have enough screen time to make an impression, while the only thing notable about Ray Liotta’s appearance is how much eyeliner he wears. And Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester as the Fosters’ babysitter? The gig should have been given to a middle-tier actor who could use the paycheck instead of someone already on a hit series who doesn’t need a thankless part.

More successful in supporting roles are Mark Wahlberg, hilarious as a shirt-shunning security expert who helps Claire and Phil, and James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real Tripplehorns, though that’s not their real names, either. Franco may be an academic in real life looking to pursue a PhD at Yale, but he cracks me up when he plays clueless and stupid. Sometimes it takes a lot of smarts to portray morons (see Carell as Michael Scott on The Office). And Kunis has consistently proven she is as funny as she is gorgeous.

Director Shawn Levy, he of the Night of the Museum movies I have no desire to see, throws in car chases, helicopters and shoot-outs for those in the audience who might be resistant to something called Date Night (does it say in Levy’s contract he’ll only direct movies involving nocturnal activities?). But the main attractions remain Carell and Fey. I had no expectations except to laugh and laugh I did (stay for outtakes over the end credits). I also expect—hope—that Carell and Fey will have many more cinematic dates together.

Nerd verdict: Fun first Date with Carell and Fey

Photos: Twentieth Century Fox



  • Reply
    April 10, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I went and checked out Date Night this afternoon. It wasn’t exactly a rocket science plot, but I did laugh out loud many, many times. The chemistry between Fey and Carell is perfect. They look and act like they have been married for years. I couldn’t believe how little screen time Mark Ruffalo and Kristin Wiig got. I wish Franco and Kunis had been on screen longer as well. Their scene was like a crazy improv.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I’m looking forward to this, PCN. Thanks for the review.

    p.s., you’re so right about Franco, too (the man was priceless in Pineapple Express)

  • Reply
    April 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Being dragged to it tonight. It looks funny, I hope it is.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I was surprised when you mentioned that they hadn’t worked together before. I probably won’t go the theater to see this, but if it makes you laugh that much, I’ll definitely catch it eventually. I’ve always been a big fan of the outtakes during the closing credits. I think I’ve laughed harder at some of those in the past than during the film! (One of the best people to watch during the outtakes was Dom Deluise. I dare anyone to keep a straight face when that man would start losing it with that laugh!)

    Thanks, PCN!

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    April 12, 2010 at 12:21 am

    What a combination ~ the scenes with Mark Wahlberg that are shown in the ads here would make me see this, let alone anything else. I don’t mind stretching the credibility one bit as long as there are plenty of laughs involved. Thanks, PCN!!

  • Reply
    nicole langan
    April 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

    saw it over the weekend,one of the funniest movies i’ve seen in a long time.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks for this review! Going in knowing that the plot requires a slight suspension of belief but that it’s very funny and Carell and Fey have great on-screen chemistry is all I need to know to go buy my ticket.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    April 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    EIREGO & nicole—Glad you laughed, too!

    lp13, Reader#9, Katiefornia—What’d you think?

    Christine—I enjoy outtakes, too, but they have to be really funny. I’m not amused by a bunch of takes that were ruined because the actors had the giggles.

    Shell—I don’t know why I find Wahlberg so funny. He doesn’t have to do or say anything. He just shows up and I start to chuckle.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Like Chris, I’ll probably catch this one on DVD. This isn’t typically my kind of humor, but I like Mark Ruffalo and Mark Wahlberg. Of course the last time I made a statement like that was when I went to see LADYKILLERS because Tom Hanks was in the movie. Hopefully this will be better!

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