Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fey and Carell make for fun "Night"

Date Night (2010)
88 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: B

"Date Night" is proof that Tina Fey and Steve Carell were the secret ingredients to make D.O.A. marital action-comedies like "The Bounty Hunter" work. Fey and Carell are a perfect match, a wit-off-the-tongue, engagingly hip-to-be-square couple. As on their respective TV sitcoms as “30 Rock's” Liz Lemon and “The Office's” Michael Scott, the leads are so compatible together and equally sly and smooth in their line delivery, physical comedy, and comic timing. (And this is Carell's best big-screen slapstick-comic work to date since "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and more consistent than "Get Smart.") 

In their star vehicle "Date Night," Fey and Carell are Claire, real estate agent, and Phil, accountant, with two kids in New Jersey. Yep, the Fosters are one of those boring couples who are worried their marriage has gone stale, so they head to the city on their weekly “date night” and try finding a table for dinner at a chic restaurant without a reservation. Claire and Phil hijack another couple's table and get mistaken for “The Tripplehorns” by some bad guys (Jimmi Simpson and Common), who are in desperate retrieval of a flash drive. Can you say "North by Northwest?" Along their ride of '50s-screwball mistaken identity and Jerry Bruckheimer-age car chases, husband and wife begin to see each other in a new light and renew their spark. 

Josh Klausner is credited for writing the screenplay, but it does seem like some of the funniest lines were ad-libbed by Fey and Carell. Director Shawn Levy shoots a lot of the thriller action in a gritty, "Collateral" style, but particularly a frantically clever car chase, it remains broadly silly that you never fear for Claire and Phil's lives—despite hanging off the side of a car or having a gun to their head. Even though the action plot is of the “who cares?” variety, "Date Night" is fleet-footed, entertaining, and frequently funny. Mark Wahlberg is a good sport playing a perpetually shirtless playboy/“security expert,” in a funny bit of self-satirizing his pre-actor Marky Mark days. More comic-gold cameos abound: James Franco and Mila Kunis as some trashy grifters, Ray Liotta as a mobster (you're surprised?), and for typical comedy relief, Kristen Wiig has a bit part as a slutty Jerseyite divorcing Mark Ruffalo. Fey and Carell single-handedly make "Date Night" an enjoyable night out. 

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