Movie Review: Date Night- An Extremely Inferior Comedy When Compared to Carell and Fey’s Known Accomplishments

Someone in the production department at 20th Century Fox must have been relaxing at night watching the late night comedy of Thursday night and thought that if they could put the two faces of NBC comedy together they would have a comedic hit on their hands. While the box office will probably look favorably upon Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s mediocre comedy there is still much to be desired in this flat and overly played out film. Date Night’s success will have nothing to do with word of mouth but rather a great marketing casting choice putting two accomplished late night TV comedians into a comedy and releasing it when there is a dry climate of comedies in the theaters. Ultimately Date Night proves that it can be difficult to deliver witty and original comedy when you’re dependent on who exactly is cast and latched to the project. This film that centers around a boring and flat couple wanting to have one night to escape their tiresome lives ends up being a comedy that has flat and boring jokes, repeating good comedic lines until they get tiresome and having only two really good memorable sequences, making Date Night just another cookie cutter comedy that results in mild entertainment but nothing more. Any avid fans of “The Office” or “30 Rock” looking for something similar will surely be pleased but anyone looking for something new from these two accomplished comedians will be greatly disappointed.

The plot of Date Night reminds us of a comedic North by Northwest where a boring couple from New Jersey seems to doubt their marriage’s spark and then get mistaken for another couple who are being hunted down by corrupt police officers, a pervert DA, and a mob boss after a spontaneous decision. There is something quite formulaic about the story from the introduction of the characters, the counter couple who are getting divorced, and the attempt to show the lame attempt at dates the Fosters take every week. Because of its expected ending and twists the film becomes just a series of rather predictable comedic gestures, fortunately with a few that are actually well written. However, the film seems to have established these two characters based solely on Fey and Carell’s known counterparts such as Liz Lemon from “30 Rock” and the bemused facial expressions of Michel Scott in “The Office.” Everything just seems too pre-constructed around this fact and unfortunately the film just trudges on without even an attempt at demonstrating original humor. They have a known successful product so why bother trying to take any risk when you know it will make money the way it is. It is mechanized comedy and that is the worst kind when these two have been known to do much better work. But this usually won’t be noticed in films like these because there is always fast paced action, shooting, and yelling to distract you from the poorly written obviously scripted dialogue and role fulfilling obtuse characters.

What more can you expect from a director who made the contrite Night at the Museum and a screenwriter who wrote the third and awful Shrek film than a dismally predictable display of comedy. The film is just too scripted and judging from the outtakes during the credits this film could have been much better with improvisation or a little less rigidity when delivering the lines. Because Carell and Fey have to be portrayed as normal every day people they lose what makes their known characters successful and that is being quirky, different, and above all weird. There is a spark in their work when they are allowed to just be those people that are familiar yet extremely original, and that definitely includes Carell’s work in 40 Year Old Virgin or Dan in Real Life. Both seem to be just trying to repress that inkling to be out there and different and the film feels strained because of that tension. When there is tension then the comedic delivery will eventually feel too scripted and what comedy needs is a natural flow to it in order to make the actors and audience feel relaxed as the film progresses. There is a duel criticism on Fey and Carell obvious in this film, that they can’t really be all that funny without being eccentric which means that they are ultimately one note comedians. Both of them aren’t awful in Date Night, in fact their personalities do help the formulaic plot and expected comedy, but it just simply isn’t enough.

Luckily the film has some off beat performances and cameos that work in its favor in delivering some memorable comedy. Mark Wahlberg is especially funny if only for the joke about his physique and makes it even more surprising when he actually speaks Israeli. While everyone keeps making jokes about Wahlberg’s toned body, sort of making the joke tiresome by the last somewhat effective delivery, he keeps a level head with his role and allows his expressions to deliver good comedy. The last memorable scene is with an extremely humorous James Franco as a dead beat thief who argues with his hooker girlfriend about supporting her by stealing wheelchairs as if they were a married couple. Besides these two making their own sequences somewhat funny, the rest of the supporting cast is considerably mediocre all the way from Ray Liotta to the rapper Common. But this isn’t to say that William Fichtner or Kristin Wiig can’t be funny, because both of them can. It just unfortunately shows the power of the script and whether or not you keep dogmatically dedicated to the written word sacrificing a good comedic performance for a well repeated written line. Sometimes you have to balance the written plot with good character grounding that allows for successful and guided improvisation, which Date Night could have used to its advantage.

Just because you have two comedians who have a well established fan base doesn’t mean you can use that as a basis for a comedic film script. This criticism won’t matter unless movies like this don’t end up doing well and the production department has to go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately this won’t happen anytime soon since these comedies are released at the right time when comedies are lacking in the theater and audiences are looking for an entertaining release. Date Night fits the bill being a mildly entertaining comedy but doesn’t even come close to the quality we are used to seeing both Carell and Fey in their roles on NBC late night comedy. The story of Date Night ends up being predictable, formulaic, and an example of how comedy is strictly a simple assembly line creation that doesn’t allow risky material to be explored falling back on expected comedic situations and cliche characters.

Grade: C

One Response to “Movie Review: Date Night- An Extremely Inferior Comedy When Compared to Carell and Fey’s Known Accomplishments”
  1. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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