Date Night

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A hedged bet, marital comedy cum action thriller, with a “boring” New Jersey couple enlivening their stale marriage by getting themselves mistaken for high-stakes blackmailers. Tina Fey will never in her lifetime use up the eternal gratitude she earned for her role in the 2008 presidential campaign (the faux Palin), and her intelligence intermittently peeks through the constant crassness, if only by stark contrast. Steve Carell, not so smartly, armors himself in protective irony, sort of like Jack Lemmon in quotation marks when we want Jack Lemmon straight. He never for an instant lets us feel that after the adventure is over, he’ll be obliged to return to suburbia. A parade of familiar faces, amounting almost to a “stellar” cast, substitutes to some extent for the dearth of laughs: Mark Wahlberg, Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, Taraji P. Henson, Ray Liotta, William Fichtner, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and, as himself, Will.i.am. Directed by Shawn Levy. (2010) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 28 minutes
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I really wanted to like “Date Night.” Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two of the funniest actors on TV and in movies. They’re both very charming and have great chemistry. Unfortunately, the writing for this movie was just too bland. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t funny. In the hands of a more talented writer, say Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed both “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated,” this movie could have been a really hilarious romp.

The premise for the movie is a bit farfetched, Fey and Carell are a married suburban couple on a date in the city who accidentally get mixed up with organized crime, due to a case of mistaken identity. The improbability of the situation could easily be overlooked if the writing was at least somewhat amusing. I kept waiting for it to get funny, but it never did, which is really too bad because Fey and Carell are really likeable and wonderful together. Although it got mixed reviews, Steve Carell made an excellent romantic lead opposite Anne Hathaway in the remake of “Get Smart” from 2008. In that movie, he was handsome and sweet and cool (the opposite of his character in “The Office”) without being intimidating. And Tina Fey, always, is simply sexy (even in “Date Night”), funny and subtle. These two charismatic, funny actors definitely belong together and hopefully someone will come along soon to provide them with a more appropriate avenue with which to ply their trade, to shine, and to make us laugh.

If you do go to see “Date Night,” try to stay awake until the end. You will be treated to a very funny outtake real during the end credits. Also, somewhere in the middle of the movie is a very creative car chase involving a fancy sports car and a taxi that is worth seeing.

April 21, 2010

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