Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Date Night" (2010)

Starring Steve Carrell, Tina Fey and Mark Wahlberg
Written by Josh Klausner
Directed by Shawn Levy

Every week I watch "The Office" and "30 Rock," which despite what any fan of very unfunny "The Big Bang Theory" will tell you, are actually two of the best sitcoms on TV.  Carrell and Fey are hysterical comedians, and I had high hopes to finally see the two of them headlining a feature together. 

Fey and Carrell star as Claire and Phil Foster, a married middle-class couple stuck in a rut.  Each week they have "date night," where they go to the same restaurant, eat the same food, and then go home and collapse and wake up the next day and go through the same routine with their kids and their work.  After learning that two of their friends are getting a divorce, Phil decides to surprise Claire by having date night in the city at a fancy restaurant.  Unfortunately, they don't have a reservation.  Phil makes the bold decision to take someone else's reservation.  Partway through dinner, they're interrupted by two men Collins and Armstrong (Common and Jimmi Simpson).  Thinking they've been caught by the restaurant, Phil and Claire follow Collins and Armstrong out into the alley. 

Unfortunately, they discover that Collins and Armstrong don't work for the restaurant.  Claire and Phil suddenly find themselves looking down the barrel of a gun, and demands are made regarding some kind of flash drive.  The Fosters aren't able to convince Collins and Armstrong that they just usurped someone else's reservation, but they are able to get away and tell their story to a police detective named Arroyo (Taraji Henson) who only believes them after Phil reveals that Collins and Armstrong mentioned that they work for a particular mob boss, Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta).  But it turns out that Collins and Armstrong are actually cops, and Phil and Claire make a break for it. 

Phil and Claire realize that the only way to get out of this is to find the flash drive before Collins and Armstrong find them.  They look up an old client of Claire's, Holbrooke Grant (Mark Wahlberg), a security expert who helps them track down a lead on who might have the mysterious flash drive.  At every turn, Collins and Armstrong are right behind them, and Arroyo is close behind as well.  What's on the flash drive?  Why is it so important?

"Date Night" won't go down in history as any great classic, but it is pretty damn funny.  Entertaining from start to finish, with lots of great lines and recurring gags.  Everyone in the cast is gold - including the parade of supporting actors.  Ray Liotta plays with his "Goodfellas" history in his small role, Wahlberg gets huge laughs as a shirtless action hero, and James Franco is totally hilarious as a dirtbag named "Taste" who argues with his stripper wife "Whip It" (Mila Kunis). 

At the center of it all are Carrell and Fey, who don't disappoint.  The two work just as well together as I'd hoped.  Phil and Claire Foster might not be characters for the comedy hall of fame like Michael Scott or Liz Lemon; they're every day folks thrown into a bizarre situation.  The comedy that the two mine out of the situation is gold.  Carrell's attempts to intimidate people are hilarious.  His exchange with Franco, ("F you, man!" "F me? No, F you!." "No, not F me, F you... MOTHER F-FER!") in fact that whole scene is one of the funniest in the whole movie.  It's those kind of exchanges that populate the best parts of the movie.  There's a lot of great physical humor, as well, such as an absurd car chase with Holbrooke's Audi R8 stuck nose-to-nose with an NYC taxi.  Recurring gags about open drawers and stealing someone's reservation work out great, never falling flat.

"Date Night" is a lot of fun.  Carrell and Fey are great leads, and they're surrounded by a great supporting cast, a good script and solid direction.  While I don't think I can say I'm hoping for a sequel, I do hope that Carrell and Fey work together again soon.