Date Night Review

(2.5 STARS)

As I said in my review of The General, action comedies are hard to pull off. Usually a film focuses too much on forced laughter, which inevitably takes away from the action. A perfect example of this is Shawn Levy’s “Date Night,” a film that does both the comedy and the action only half-right. It’s not a bad film. It’s a relatively entertaining diversion. The comedy is alright, and the action decent enough. But the union of Steve Carrell and Tina Fey should be uproarious, not “relatively entertaining” or “decent enough.”

Phil and Claire Foster (Carrell and Fey) have the kind of roommate that, to steal a phrase from the movie, could be best described as “great roommates.” They get along just fine, but there’s no passion. Their idea of a good time is to go to the usual restaurant, sit at the usual table, and order the usual meal. And when it comes to sex, they just don’t really feel like making the effort. But when the Fosters learn their seemingly happy friends are getting a divorce, they decide it’s time to spice things up a little.

Phil takes Claire to a hip New York restaurant, but they can’t get a table. While waiting at the bar, they overhear the hostess calling for the Tripplehorns to take their seats. When no one speaks up, Phil and Claire take their reservation and have a lovely evening, at least until two men come over, take them to the alley, and pull a gun on them. Despite their claims of mistaken identity, Phil and Claire end up on a wild goose chase for the real Tripplehorns and their flash drive, which the gunmen need to turn over to a ruthless gangster.

The plot is preposterous, but that’s not something I couldn’t get past. The problem is that it’s all so generic and tame. The comedy never goes balls-out, and the action is so run-of-the-mill. Add those problems to the fact that we know exactly how this film will end before it even starts, and it’s difficult to muster up too much enthusiasm for “Date Night.”

With that said, the film does have some amusing moments. I enjoyed the chase with the taxi attached to Phil and Claire’s car (mostly because it featured Leon from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). I also thought Phil and Claire’s pretend stories about restaurant patrons were funny and sweet.

Carrell and Fey are both solid, but they don’t elevate the material much. It occurred to me that perhaps their senses of humor weren’t a good fit for this film, but I think a better screenplay would’ve been an asset for everyone to work with.

It’s hard to say much else about “Date Night,” simply because it’s just very ordinary. It doesn’t leave any impression, good or bad. But if you need a Carrell or Fey fix, this definitely isn’t what you should check out. Watch “The Office” or “30 Rock.” Twenty minutes of solid comedy are much more satisfying than 90 minutes of half-baked jokes and pretty lame action.

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