“Date Night” Movie Review

     Steve Carell and Tina Fey team up in the hilarious, but very average comedy entry “Date Night.”  After a string of duds in this genre in 2010, Date Night was a breath of fresh air as the leads put their considerable comic talents front and center and effectively make up for the lack of a decent script.  As the out takes at the end of the film prove, Date Night owes a king’s ransom to its stars as they clearly carry this film to its limited heights.

     Phil (Carell) and Claire (Fey) Foster are a stereotypical married couple, living a very normal life in suburban New Jersey.  Like many working couples with kids, they have very little time for each other and therefore regularly schedule the obligatory “Date Night” with each other to get away.  One night, sensing Claire’s need for something more,  Phil decides to take Claire to an expensive Manhattan restaurant.  Upon arrival, they learn a reservation is needed and that they may be hours from getting seated.

     While waiting at the crowded bar, Phil over hears the hostess calling for the “Tripplehorns.”  When no one answers to that name, Phil quickly proclaims “We are the Tripplehorns!” prompting the hostess to seat them.  Halfway through dinner, a pair of thugs show up and order them outside.  Phil and Claire think it’s because they took another party’s reservation, but unknown to them, the identity they assumed is the identity of a couple who has stolen a flash drive from a mob boss!

     And so the excitement begins along with several very funny bits.  Along the way, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, and William Fichtner all appear and make good use of their time on screen. Mark Wahlberg is especially funny in a recurring role throughout the film.  The anchors; however, are clearly Carell and Fey.  As they go, so do the actors sharing scenes with them.  It’s as if Wahlberg and Franco were feeding off Fey and Carell’s energy. I doubt Wahlberg and Franco would have been funny by themselves.  This is a problem because as the two stars make their way through the plot they are set up into various scenes with recognizable stars, with none of the other characters ever interacting without them.  The result makes you think you are watching an SNL sketch with higher production values.  The scenes without the two leads are not funny and slow the film down.

     When looking at a film like this, you can’t help but to compare the stars previous work.  Steve Carell seems to just jump of the screen and steal every scene he is in.  He seems to have an uncanny ability to play an everyman who wants to sound like he can handle any situation, but he clearly just cannot.  He showed this as Evan Baxter in “Bruce Almighty”, Maxwell Smart in “Get Smart” and continued with pure comic gold in “The 40 Year Old Virgin.”  Chalk this one up right next to those three. I would definitely like to see Tina Fey teamed up with Carell again, though not as these characters.  They both seem to play off one another and I believe the final cut owes a lot to their improvisation.

     “Date Night” is a “Wedding Crashers” or “Observe and Report” type script away from being in the upper class of comedies, but the lack thereof means it must settle for a more average rating.  You’ll be hard pressed not to laugh, but you will also wonder if there could have been more. GRADE: B-