Hammering Out . . . Date Night

Hammering Out . . . Date Night
Date Night.  88 mins.  PG-13.  Directed by Shawn Levy.  Written by Josh Klausner.  Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta, and Mark Wahlberg.
JOHN: Date Night is a genial, likeable comedy that is a modest success thanks in large part to the inspired pairing of Thursday night sitcom heavyweights Steve Carell and Tina Fey.  Billed as an action comedy, the movie is rather light on action and instead exists as a vehicle for Fey and Carell to inject their own unique brands of comedy into an escalating series of ridiculous situations.  Fey, in particular, acquits herself nicely here.  She doesn't stray far from Liz Lemon, but she handles the dramatic scenes well.  I didn't laugh a ton - a few chuckles here and there.  Sure, Date Night is agreeable and passes the time just fine, but you'll probably find a single episode of The Office or 30 Rock funnier than all of Date Night.  Do you agree Jules, and, if so, why do you think that is?  Why is it so hard for most feature-length comedies to sustain the funny?  What'd you think?
JULIE: Well, John, it only proves how difficult comedy is.  There are so few movies (or TV shows) that succeed on a comedic level for a long period of time.  Even the hour-long Office episodes always fall a little flat for me.
Anyway, I went into seeing Date Night expecting the worst.  I watched Tina Fey and Steve Carell on on Oprah this week (yes, sometimes I watch Oprah. And The View), and every clip they showed was basically laugh free.  I thought the movie was going to be an episode of According to Jim, pretty much.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I didn't think the movie was that funny, per se, but I thought it had some very poignant things to say about marriage and relationships.  It works more on a rom/com level rather than an out-and-out comedy.  And I thought Tina Fey was pretty great.  There were a few awkward line readings here and there, but I thought her performance was more than just a Liz Lemon retread.  Steve Carell was mostly just along for the ride; and is it wrong that whenever I see him in a movie I just wish it was the same movie but he was playing his character from Anchorman instead?
Let's talk cameos, too.  Every single person in Hollywood was in this movie.  I, for one, was happy to see Taraji P. Henson.
JOHN: Yeah, it's nice to see her collect a paycheck with a do-nothing role.  There were a ton of cameos in here - almost as if director/producer Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) was worried that audiences wouldn't be content with just Carell and Fey on screen, so he loaded up the supporting character slate with recognizable faces.  Mark Ruffalo!  Kristen Wiig!  James Franco!  Mila Kunis!  Ray Liotta!  But you know what?  It didn't detract from the movie - it sort of added to the enjoyment.  I thought Mark Wahlberg was particularly great.  He's been losing his mojo on screen of late (he was so bad in The Happening, I likened it to career suicide), but maybe comedies are the way to go for him.  The trailer for the new Will Ferrell/Wahlberg flick, The Other Guys, that was shown before Date Night looks hysterical.
I agree too about the poignancy.  The first 30 minutes of the movie are probably the best - just seeing Carell and Fey play the long-suffering married couple was fun and there's some nice insights there.  It was very believable and refreshingly honest, which might explain why I was a little disappointed when the mistaken identities plot finally kicked in.  The movie exists for that plot, and the ensuing danger/action, but it all felt a little too derivative of 2008's Pineapple Express.  Also, some of the character actions (especially the scene at the police station) required audiences to stretch credibility way too thin.
But Wahlberg injects some much needed humor in the middle of the movie as Fey's shirtless former client, and there's also a great scene with Franco and Kunis as the real Tripplehorns (the couple whose dinner reservation Fey and Carell stole).  It felt like the actors were given a lot of improvisational room in those scenes, and, the movie wouldn't be nearly as good without them.
JULIE: Also "Yay" for Franco's description of why his name is Tripplehorn.
I'm not gonna lie to you.  I fell asleep during the action stuff.  You knew I would.  My brain just sees action and thinks "sleep."  Missing that part of the movie might've colored why I seem to have liked it more than you did.
So let's just get down to business.  How many stars do you give the movie?  I'm going with ***
JOHN: Same here.  ***

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  • I thought this movie was hillarious. John may only have made a couple chuckles, but I laughed a ton. OUTLOUD. I'm not sure why everyone is making a big deal about the action scenes. They weren't awesome, but I thought they were just background for the funny!

  • In reply to Ashby:

    John's only happy if the action is M:I-3 caliber.

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