Tina Fey and Steve Carrell star in a film written by Josh Klausner and directed by Shawn Levy.
One always has to wonder about comedies that opt to insert bloopers/outtakes during the end credits, a sub-genre which now includes the new Tina Fey/Steve Carell yarn. Generally, the concept is an acceptance of the frivolity of the comedy genre, and it is thus fine to pull back the curtain of storytelling and convey the supposed festive spirit on-set. In the case of Date Night, though, by the time the bloopers come around, we have a different impression: It is as if Fey and Carell, those gifted and restless post-Modernist merrymakers, are hamming it up and going off-script in a desperate effort to have some fun in the process of finishing the clunky project they’ve signed on to.
What we have here is a failure to cohesively communicate between the contrasting elements propping up the film—the comic and the criminal, the suburban playground and the urban demimonde. In one corner, there is the cozy midstream parenting angst of the New Jersey every-couple played, affectingly enough, by Fey and Carell. They are busy raising a family, doing the multitasking mambo, and trying to keep the diminishing flame of their romantic/libidinal life flickering in check.
On a special big night out in the Big Apple, they fall into a supposedly nightmarish rabbit hole of drastically mistaken identity, near-murder experiences, bad cops with big guns, calamitous car chases through late-night Manhattan, and an extortion plan gone wrong (involving Ray Liotta, which is scary in and of itself). The high jinks even include a pole-dancing sequence so lame it almost circles back around to the land of humor.
In short, Date Night takes a spin around the scenario of Martin Scorsese’s jolly fine and fun After Hours—a film about all the things that can and do go bump and go wrong in one night in Manhattan. The only difference here is that Date Night largely sucks. Were it not for the occasional zingers and charisma of Fey and Carell, all would be lost. Something seems amiss when a star’s promotional appearance on TV—Fey’s funny turn on Saturday Night Live this past weekend—is brighter and funnier than the movie she’s promoting. Maybe Fey functions best on the small screen and in projects she can lend her superior writing brain to.
Suffice to say, Date Night, despite the periodic percolations of comic fizz, is not a recommended choice for date night—unless, of course, your plan is to engage in something other than paying close attention to what’s onscreen.