Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review - Date Night

Bored with their humdrum marriage and scared by the sudden split of another couple who seemed so happy, Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey of the tube) attempt to fibrillate their boring evenings out with a glamourous date on the bustling isle of Manhattan. But unable to secure a table at a high end restaurant, they rebelliously steal someone else's reservation. Little are they aware that the no-shows are actually being pursued by the mob for an incriminating flash drive being used to blackmail the district attorney. Soon a simple case of mistaken identity turns into a frantic madcap chase around New York, as the Fosters try to clear their name and make it back home in one piece.

At least, it could have turned into a frantic madcap chase around New York. Instead, Date Night feels slow. It relies far too heavily on scripted laughs that just aren't there. The theoretically strong comic pairing of television superstars Steve Carrel and Tina Fey is no match for the weakness of the dialogue they're given. Not that any blame should be laid on them. Fey and Carrel are indeed riotously funny people... with funny material, that is. But even Hepburn and Tracy couldn't have sold this script. Writer John Clausner (of the unneeded Shrek the Third and imminent Shrek Forever After) had a potentially good comedy on his hands. There's nothing wrong with the film conceptually. Screwball comedies based on ridiculous premises such as this have been done successfully before, going as far back as the 1930's. But those movies remembered that the juxtaposition of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances was funny. This movie can't decide whether its two leads are hapless or savant, scared stiff or adventurous. The Fosters are constantly slipping in and out of character. It flattens their character arcs, and one scene in particular, where they halt their stolen car and stop fleeing the bad guys for a moment so they can discuss their marital problems, drives a pike through what little believability these characters had (“No Oscar for you!”).

Resultantly, the film is only funny in small isolated sections, the best of which is a manic chase scene involving the aforementioned stolen car and a rightfully startled cab driver (a hilarious bit part played by J.B. Smoove of SNL and Curb Your Enthusiasm).

** out of ****

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