Some people could seriously get away with standing in front of a camera and reading names from the phone book and it would still be more entertaining than most of what passes as Hollywood entertainment these days. Two of those names just happen to be Steve Carell (NBC's The Office) and Tina Fey (NBC's 30 Rock) and they now star together in Date Night.
These two are bona fide comedic juggernauts. Why no one has paired them up before is anyone’s guess. Thankfully, the stars have aligned and while it may not be the best comedy ever made, at least the two stars are able to keep it afloat. That’s not saying they don’t get a little help from some very funny friends.
Shawn Levy is far from known as a top notch director. With a resume consisting of Big Fat Liar, Just Married, the first of the Cheaper by the Dozen and Pink Panther remakes, along with the both Night at the Museums, we aren’t talking high brow art here. What he does do is bring home money for his parent studio, Twentieth Century Fox.
While Josh Klausner’s resume is far shorter than director Levy’s, it is attached to one film that’s brought home the bacon – Shrek the Third – and another that surely will – Shrek Forever After. With Fey and Carell in the leads, however, I’m not exactly sure how much of Klausner’s original dialogue was left intact. As I mentioned before, Fey and Carell can get away with saying the most ridiculous of lines and wring any ounce of funny you could possibly imagine.
Phil (Carell) and Claire (Fey) Foster lead an average, everyday life. Every morning their kids demand breakfast at 5:45 a.m. and it’s off to the races. Phil is a tax lawyer whose clients would rather spend their $600 tax refunds on a weekend getaway and Claire is a real estate agent who agrees with buyers that the price still might come down more instead of nailing the sale.
At the end of the day they’re both even too tired to enjoy their forced date nights out together. While they may have fun swapping made up stories about the couples at the other tables, they find themselves missing the sparks and romance that everyone but them seem to be enjoying. And as Claire puts it, she’s gonna “go home and fart into a pillow.”
That is until they walk into the new Manhattan restaurant, Claw. They steal a table for two by posing as the no-show Tripplehorns. What they don’t know is that the real Tripplehorns are extortionists blackmailing crime boss Joe Maletto (an uncredited Ray Liotta).
Now the Fosters are up to their elbows in crooked cops (Common and Jimmi Simpson), a hilariously shirtless ex-Marine private detective (Mark Wahlberg) with his own computer system straight out of Minority Report, and the Fosters must find the “real” Tripplehorns who turn out to be low-rent crooks who go by the names Taste (James Franco) and Whippit (Mila Kunis.)
While featuring two of the funniest chase sequences by water and land, it could have seemed all as contrived as it really is if it weren’t for the breezy pacing and the obvious ad-libbing hilarity of the cast. If you don’t think a getaway chase involving a puttering boat or another featuring two cars stuck bumper-to-bumper are short of hilarious, then you’re watching this film starring a different cast.
And that’s what it all comes down to. Everyone knows how ridiculous everything is but plays it with the deadpan seriousness necessary to sell it. Having Fey and Carell make their characters instantly the two most lovable losers in love before you even buy your ticket. Hopefully the film will have the legs to at least make its money back as the pairing of these two leads begs for it to happen again.
On a final note, any couples who don’t see even a tiny sliver of themselves somewhere in the Fosters' relationship have honestly never been in one. But if you think Claire’s idea of sitting alone in an air conditioned hotel room with a diet Sprite sounds like a great escape, there are always worse things, like weird sex fantasies involving Cyndi Lauper.