Tina Fey + Steve Carell = hilarity; ‘Date Night’ (2010).

7 Apr

Date Night posterAn attempt at mixing romantic comedy with some pretty hectic action, Date Night stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey as Phil and Claire Foster, a middle-aged suburban couple living in New Jersey. In order to climb out of the rut in which they’ve dug themselves into, Phil takes Claire to a new, excruciatingly hip restaurant in the city. Without a reservation, the couple steal a table claimed by a no-show, but it’s not long before a pair of would-be bouncers show them out. Guns are pulled in the alleyway and they realise they’ve gotten themselves into a bigger mess than they could ever have imagined.

Let’s get this out of the way: I am a massive fan of both leads. 30 Rock is one of my favourite shows of all time, Saturday Night Live will never not be entertaining and The US Office is great too. But when it comes to movies, the two have been less successful – I can’t stand Mean Girls, Baby Mama was a disappointment, Evan Almighty is annoyingly bland and I’ve explained how much of a tragedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is. However, this is the best of the lot; while being decidedly average in comparison to their television work, Date Night is an awful lot of fun.

While Baby Mama, Burt Wonderstone et all proved that throwing funny people into funny situations doesn’t necessarily result in success, Date Night, thankfully, is an absolute hoot; I laughed fairly consistently throughout. Fey is very Liz Lemon here, as her dry wit, uptight demeanour and penchant for fine food shines through. Carell, much like Michael Scott, relies on hilariously awkward humour to herald the laughs, and together the two have explosive chemistry. Many lines were clearly improvised, and there is no doubt that a large amount of the laughs between the two comedians were genuine.

Aside from the two lovable leads, a true cavalcade of stars make surprising appearances. Without spoiling anything, Mark Wahlberg, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo and J. B. Smoove all show up, and each of them are funny in their own ways. I was in near-hysterics laughing at Smoove’s lines as an innocent cab driver caught up in all the madness – let’s just say that he has perhaps the most hilarious scream I’ve ever heard… And I’ve seen all of those screaming goat videos. That said, none of them outshine the two leads, who really make Date Night a treat.

Now, the story itself is a different matter. It reminds me of the recent Side Effects in that this movie is great at making you think it’s going to be a certain kind of film, but then leads you down an entirely different path. Date Night starts off like a typical romantic comedy; an early forty-something couple are tired of adhering to the same routine day in and day out, and attempt to spice up their lives by going out to dinner. However, roughly a third of the way through the movie rather jarringly shifts to a much darker place as their lives become suddenly at stake. This is a very slow start, and while watchable, it only becomes fun about halfway through.

Once it gets going it’s superbly entertaining, but the pacing is a bit off, and the story drags at points. As such can only fairly be deemed ‘good’ rather than ‘great’. I’m still waiting on either actors’ cinematic masterpiece, though it looks like I’ll have a while to wait.

Simon says: My favourite Tina Fey movie? Yeah, probably.


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