Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, and Tariji P. Henson
Modern comedy is often found in the silence, not the punchline. It’s usually the uttering of a few colorful adjectives followed by an awkward stammer or glare. When done right, on TV shows like The Office and 30 Rock, it is hilarious. Date Night plucks its two stars from those two modern TV milestones to try and inject a little bit of comedic energy into a script much in need of it.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a self-proclaimed boring suburban couple. They are comatose, floating around like a slapstick version of the Burnham family from American Beauty. Then, thanks to some blatant plot doctoring, they are forced on a life-or-death journey into a New York that is oozing with corruption and filled with vermin played by famous actors.
It’s unfortunate that the big studio system that produced this film, 20th Century Fox in this case, didn’t have the foresight to know that the head writer of one of television’s funniest shows would be starring in it. Tina Fey could’ve injected some much needed fun into this often painfully unfunny script. The only moments that truly shimmer are the ones where her and Carell were allowed to improvise.
Date Night is about making life exciting again, and about the couple rediscovering why they actually like each other. In movies like these, audiences know what to expect at the end, so for the movie to be worthwhile the journey must be exhilirating. They get in a car chase with Common, and do awkwardly unsexual sexy dancing at a strip club owned by Ray Liotta, and it’s still never good for more than a chuckle.
Silence would have served the jokes in this movie better, because writer Josh Klausner writes a screenplay that puts forth the punchline “He put a Sharpie in a McNugget… these are bad people,” and just assumes it’s funny without actually conceiving a joke around it. This is a comedy that is too obsessed with being quotable that it forgets to be funny.
The charm exuded by the two stars is enough to somewhat salvage the recycled plot and jokes. Fey and Carell have screen chemistry that is far superior to the movie they’re in. The cameos from Mark Wahlberg, James Franco and Mila Kunis also have their moments, but it’s a sad day when something so unfunny gets green-lit and then rushed through production and dumped onto audiences. Lisa Cholodenko waited years for her kids to be all right with a studio. Carell, Fey and company only spent a few days on a back lot struggling through punchlines and plot holes to get their kids tucked in.