Dynamic duo

Audience members are invited to throw popcorn into the actors’ mouths.

Audience members are invited to throw popcorn into the actors’ mouths.

Rated 3.0

This film probably doesn’t represent the pinnacle of Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s careers. I mean, it actually has a scene with Fey dressed as a hooker while Carell performs a robot sex dance on her. Still, Date Night provides the duo with enough fuel for laughs to get you through its 88 minute running time with no major harm done.

Is that high praise? Shit, no, but it’s the best movie yet from director Shawn Levy, who is responsible for the likes of The Pink Panther remake and the lousy Night at the Museum movies. I feel it’s an accomplishment to get through a Levy movie mildly amused rather than spending it resisting the urge to drive my car keys through my eye sockets.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple who lead a pleasant if somewhat humdrum life. Their big event for the week is to get a babysitter, go to the local steakhouse, and make fun of the patrons surrounding them.

After hearing that their seemingly happy friends Haley and Brad (funny cameos by Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo) are getting divorced, the couple decides to take it up a notch for their next date night. Phil promises Claire a night out in the city, and dinner at the new, snooty Manhattan seafood restaurant Claw (where they answer the phone “Claw … you are welcome!” because it’s an honor to speak with them).

The two show up without a reservation and decide to impersonate another couple who hadn’t claimed their table. After a fine meal, two seedy-looking fellows (Jimmi Simpson and Common) ask them to step outside, mistaking them for the restaurant no-shows, and plunging Phil and Claire into a night of car chases, gunfire and strip clubs.

The good news here is that Carell and Fey make for a convincing and often funny pair. There is no problem believing these two could be married. Actually, after watching them in this movie, I want them to get married. Steve … Tina … tell your spouses to screw off and then you can get hitched. You’re just so darned cute!

The film also benefits from a great supporting cast that includes Mark Wahlberg as a mysterious former security guy who refuses to put a shirt on when Phil and Claire come searching for help, much to the chagrin of Phil. James Franco and Mila Kunis show up in a quick but memorable scene as a married couple up to no good. James Franco needs to make more comedies.

Best of all is J.B. Smoove as a cab driver who gets his front bumper attached to Phil’s car, resulting in one of the more unique car chases in quite some time. Smoove, who’s hilarious on Curb Your Enthusiasm, lets out some classic girlie screams during the sequence, and the moment when he ditches his vehicle got the biggest laugh of the night from me.

One of the great things about Carell is his ability to render even the most ridiculous characters sympathetic and sincere. You really feel for Phil as he tries in vain to provide his wife with an evening she deserves. As for Fey, the woman is just terribly funny when she goes into her mean, sarcastic mode. Fey can tear people down with the best of them. The two provide some nice balance for each other. It also helps that they are naturally funny.

This is making good money, so they’ll probably make a few more and ruin a fair thing. While I don’t think a Date Night 2 is necessary, I would like to see Carell and Fey in another project that really showcases their talents. As for this movie, it’ll do for now.