Funny couple Carell and Fey have almost nowhere to go in Date Night
Steve Carell and Tina Fey have a funny, outlandish night on the town in Date Night. It makes for a diverting 90 minutes or so, but even with brisk pacing and a host of quirky supporting players, this feisty little entertainment starts running out of gas before it’s even half over.
Fey and Carell play a middle-class married couple whose half-hearted attempts to bring some romance back into their lives plunges them into an absurd little misadventure of mistaken identities. It’s a little like an Alfred Hitchcock yarn that’s somehow strayed into the territory of situation comedy, except that director Shawn Levy and screenwriter Josh Klausner don’t seem inclined to take any of it much beyond entry-level jokiness.
The two star comics do what they can with roles that seem made to order, but which in the actual event prove too cautiously hemmed-in. Much of the best stuff in Date Night is the bits you saw in the preview trailers that seemed ubiquitous in the weeks before the film’s release, and there’s only a little consolation in the discovery that the jokes you’ve already seen several times remain just as funny when you come across them again in the actual movie.
“Taste” and Whippit, a whacked-out low-life couple played by James Franco and Mila Kunis, are the best things in the film, the dark-shadow side of the Carell-Fey blend of danger and domesticity. Mark Wahlberg is charming but underused as a beefcake foil to Carell’s character.
The comic talents of Kristen Wiig and Jimmi Simpson go strangely untapped. Unfortunately, they’re typical in a film that also underuses its stars and relegates Ray Liotta, Mark Ruffalo, Taraji P. Henson, William Fichtner and others to featureless stock roles.
Fey and Carell survive it all and are definitely OK. Too bad Levy and Klausner couldn’t give them a roomier arena in which to frolic.