Date Night

If tube superstars Tina Fey and Steve Carell face any risk of being typecast, it's that we might always assume them to be fabulous. Transitioning from Liz Lemon and Michael Scott to whichever other modern fictional character is apparently a cinch, but that versatile charm doesn't translate quite so easily under the pressures of lukewarm writing and directing. Unlike Farrell, Sandler and Kidman, whose crapshoot one-off feature films are not only forgivable but somehow a naturally occuring process of their careers, Fey and Carell build their underhanded routine on such a cynical platform that works masterfully well under the proper script and critical vision. Screwing up that formula doesn't suit them, no matter how much cash the fat cats make off them.

The dynamic duo stars as Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple in New Jersey who begin to foresee the cavernous rut that their partnership risks falling into. With two kids and hectic careers, they attempt to rescue the dwindling spark of their marriage on date nights—romantic dinners scheduled far in advance, so they can enjoy good food prepared by somebody far away from home.

After nabbing another party's table reservations at a chic Manhattan restaurant, they realize the dangers of posing as another couple when crooked cops go after their heads in pursuit of a mysterious flash drive. They have little clue of the matter, and are forced to solve the case by breaking into offices and enlisting the aid of a shirtless security technician (Mark Wahlberg). By trusting each other, and more importantly, recognizing the bond that brought them together, Phil and Claire fight for their lives and marriage in one swing, all the while missing a good night's sleep.

Date Night is without a doubt funny, and so are Fey and Carell, who employ such sincere on-screen personalities that every joke and misstep of physical comedy has good intentions. Unfortunately, that's come to be expected of them, and the film fails to take advantage of their unique talents. Bearing an action plotline that clearly wants to be Pineapple Express, the sense of humour stays cast in the mould of a screenwriter's pitch that is fun to ponder but dull when made a reality. It prevents the film from making any solidly satirical critique of middle-class values, something the appetite smarter fans of 30 Rock and The Office require to sustain interest.

Such valuable icons in a theatrical release have the opportunity to reach beneath both the chosen genre and their individual personae, but instead produce a mere inquiry into how many suburban joes will haul-ass from the couch to the multiplex for a thrill ride outside the box.

Date Night
Directed by Shaun Levy
Written by Josh Klausner
Starring Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Taraji P. Henson, Ray Liotta

2 stars

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