When I found out that two of network television’s biggest stars were getting together to make a movie, I was both excited and cynical. Would it be geniunely fresh and amusing, or was it cooked up in a hurry as a fluffy vehicle for already-familiar characters?
Date Night is a little of both.
Tina Fey and Steve Carell play what might be the non-celebrity versions of themselves. A busy suburban Jersey couple with young kids, a hectic schedule, demanding jobs, and little time to spend together, they each harbor anxious doubts about whether their marriage is on solid ground. It’s this anxiety that inspires a special date night in the city. Unexpected hijinks occur, hilarity ensues, etc. Think Adventures In Babysitting, only it’s the parents that are trying to outrun baddies.
Strangely paced and occasionally absurd, the film is far from perfect. It breaks up a high-energy action scene (I screamed out loud in the theater!) with pause for a fight about trusting each other more. It wastes precious time and energy reminding us that the couple is uncertain about their relationship, when it’s totally clear throughout that they’re a matched set. But the two stars at the helm (from television though they may be) are no ordinary comedy duo; Fey and Carell have the chops to carve the audience to bits with no lines at all. The two break out their well-honed improv skills to create some of the film’s weirdest and funniest moments, and at one point a simple sidelong glance from Carell had the whole theater in stitches.
Despite a slow start and a rocky build up, Date Night ultimately passes the comedy test: it’s really funny. I for one hope to see these two stars together on the big screen in the future. But no, Fox, that’s not a green light for Date Night 2.