Synopsis: Steve Carell and Tina Fey are “a match made in comedy heaven” (Ben Lyons, E!) in this uproarious adventure about an ordinary couple in the right place…on the wrong night. Phil and Claire Foster are a sensible, suburban husband and wife slogging through their daily lives and marriage. But a case of mistaken identity sets off an outrageous chain of events involving small-time thieves, big-city mobsters, corrupt cops and a crazed cabbie, as the Fosters’ “date night” turns into a wild ride they’ll never forget!
Date Night 7.75
I picked up this film at the last minute, as a bridge between my Steve Carell films and the upcoming Drew Barrymore ones. I was initially looking for ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ and came THIS close to renting it. But I got my hands on ‘Date Night’ for just a bit more than a rental, and figured that I could always resell it and make most of it back.
…because, quite honestly, I was expecting to want to sell it first thing the next day – I had only heard some very poor things about ‘Date Night’. The only things that compelled to get it were the cost, a more fluid bridge (due to its title – you’ll see ) to the next batch of films, and… Tina Fey.
A part of me really wants to like Tina Fey. Her renditions of Sarah Palin were absolute genius and there’s something truly appealing about her – she seems down to earth despite the intense spotlight (the fact that she has a small facial scar she’s not even worried about says something about her character ). And since I’d only seen her once before (in ‘The Invention of Lying’, in an insignificant part), I wanted to see more of her, to find out what kind of talent she is.
On the one hand, I found her fully credible as an actress; I believed her wholly as a real estate salesperson, mother and spouse. I liked her even more as a comedian: I thought that she was nuanced enough to make it realistic, found her timing quite good and was thrilled that she was able to get a bit crazy but managed to keep it grounded. Not bad at all.
And yet, I wasn’t blown away by her. I should very well be, because she’s certainly more talented than most of her peers, but the charisma I was half-expecting simply wasn’t there; I didn’t see any magic. It was an effortless, extremely skilled performance by a very good actress and comedian, but I didn’t find that quality that makes me want to be just like her when I grow up. (uh… forget I just wrote that )
But now she is on my radar and I will most definitely see her other film and television works whenever possible. And the same can be said for Steve Carell, whom I had basically written off after ’40-Year-Old Virgin’ and ‘The Office’ as just a goofy schmuck. After ‘Dan in Real Life’ and ‘Date Night’, I find myself kind of impressed with his ability to merge comedy and drama.
In ‘Date Night’, he plays an understanding and devoted father and partner. Even though work tires him out and his relationship lacks the zing it once had, he tries so darned hard to make it all work; he tries to be considerate of his whole family. Carell completely sells the character, making him feel like the best “everyman” you can get: average, but with enough spark to shine.
Carell and Fey make a wonderful couple. I found them totally believable, playing off of each other like true partners. I couldn’t help but wonder how actors can play pretend like this and not be confused at the end of the day; I mean, after a day of shooting familial and couple situations like those, I’d half-expect to carry on in real life – I found them that convincing. I also find that they struck a nice balance between light-hearted and serious tones throughout the picture.
I adored how realistic their relationship was portrayed (at least, from my perspective): how tired they were of being “on” all the time, how a routine had set in, how they never got a chance to be alone with other, and even less so by themselves. The respect and friendship between them was totally tangible, even though there was no sign of passion anywhere due to… um… life. This may not seem like fun to some, but I could completely relate to it. Thus my enjoyment.
I really expected to disconnect when their night out went completely off the rails; I figured that it was likely going to turn into another cheesy Hollywood comedy and that the supposed laughs were going to be coming from all sorts of exaggerated scenarios – unreal ones that make me want to brain someone. But the film, while it does go over-the-top at times, tends to eschew farce and slapstick for realism, and injects humour in the dialogues and situations. That’s exactly the way I like it.
A thing that punches up the film are the throngs of familiar faces in small roles or cameos: Common, William Fichtner, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Ray Liotta, Leighton Meester, Mark Ruffalo, Mark Wahlberg, Kristen Wiig and will.i.am. Even the ones who over-acted were watchable because they were on screen in such short doses. Heck, even Ruffalo and Marky Mark were alright (mind you, that may be on account of the rest of the cast.. ).
For me the only truly weak scene is the one with the D.A., because I just couldn’t buy that he dug watching Carell and Fey dance. Don’t get me wrong: their routine was funny as all get out; it was sooooo awkward and pathetic! Seriously, I don’t remember the last time that I laughed as hard as I did watching this lame show. (then again, I haven’t exactly watched the funniest films lately…)
I don’t know, maybe it was the mood I was in. After all, ‘Date Night’ was made by the same director who completely ruined The Pink Panther franchise by remaking it with Steve Martin and Beyoncé. Based on this alone, ‘Date Night’ should have sucked eggs. And yet I enjoyed this film so much. I was even impressed with its soundtrack; it filled the room appropriately and was quite dynamic. It was a real treat.
So why did ‘Date Night’ eat so much $#!t from some of the critics? Why is it that I only found really mixed reviews of it, if it’s not nearly as bad as that? Was I on crack when I watched this? And do I really want to know the truth?
Maybe it’s due to expectations. Most people probably had extra high ones because of the “magic” pairing of Carell and Fey, whereas I was only expecting something half-okay – maybe along the lines of the original ‘The Out-of-Towners’ (as opposed to its mind-numbing remake ).