Tina Fey and Steve Carell are talented, likable performers. We already know how funny they can be, but in Date Night they prove to be capable actors, as well, utterly believable as a suburban New Jersey couple caught up in the drone of daily life. A night out on the town in Manhattan leads to the comic chaos that propels this movie. “Chaos” is the operative word here, as screenwriter Josh Klausner, who apprenticed with the Farrelly Brothers, throws our unsuspecting couple into one extreme situation after another—from dodging gangsters’ bullets to—
participating in a wild car chase on the city streets at night. The incongruity of ordinary people in extraordinary situations is the comedic foundation of the film.
Yet throughout this increasingly frantic movie, it’s the “small stuff”—pieces of throwaway dialogue and interaction between Fey and Carell—that caught my fancy and made me laugh. The big, loud action set-pieces could be lifted from any number of other movies, but Carell disguising his voice on an apartment intercom, or Fey acting tough in order to intimidate the gatekeeper at a sex club, are the moments I liked best. I just wish there were more of them.
Producer-director Shawn Levy, whose credits include Cheaper by the Dozen (and its lackluster sequel), Night at the Museum (and its unforgivable sequel), and the Steve Martin remake of The Pink Panther, takes an everything-plus-the-kitchen sink approach to comedy. Some of it works, and some of it doesn’t. Having familiar faces turn up unexpectedly in supporting roles is good for a smile of recognition in some cases, while other cameos add nothing to the film. But Date Night does not come from the “less-is-more” school of entertainment.
I suppose you’d call this a mixed review. Date Night is relatively painless; I enjoyed watching Tina Fey and Steve Carell. I just wish they’d found a better vehicle for their considerable talent.