Saturday, September 25, 2010

Date Night - Home Video Review

Release Date: April 9, 2010

Review Vital Stats:
Service: Xbox Zune Marketplace
Download Type: Rental
Picture Quality: HD

Loves: Tina Fey, the "one crazy night" style of movie
Likes: Steve Carell, silly comedies
Neutral:  Mark Walhberg
Hates: Cliche plots in silly comedies

It is rare when to leading actors in the same genre come together and play opposite of each other when they are at the top of their game. Usually you would see them take on their own projects and be the one and only star of the show. You never saw the likes of Schwartzenegger, Stallone, or Willis in the same movie until only recently and it took over 2 decades for Pacino and De Niro to finally duke it out on screen. I guess it is because both Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are in TV shows that rely heavily on a ensemble cast that they both share the same enthusiasm to work with others as oppose to against each them. So, how did this magical duo's first feature film together turn out...? Read on to find out.

Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell & Tina Fey) are you average middle aged married couple. The have their kids and jobs that take up most of their time and energy. Once a week they have a scheduled date night where they go out to their favorite restaurant and eat their favorite food while engaging in small talk and their little game of "What's their story" as they look at the other couples around them. They seem happy with how their lives are structured and despite a lack of action in the bedroom are quite happy with their situation.

Phil and Claire trying to act like a stuck up rich couple.
Then one night at a couples get together they find out their friends are splitting up and the reasons they hear for this break up is very similar to what is happening in their own marriage. Phil looking to save his marriage decides to head into New York city for a special date night at the new and exclusive restaurant "Claw". They soon realize that they are out of luck without a reservation which is a direct result of Phil not planning well (which he never does). Luck does swing their way though and Phil takes advantage of it by pretending to be the Tripplehorns and stealing their reservation. It works out well enough until they are visited by two mean looking guys who are looking for the real Tripplehorns. The rest of their crazy night plays out with them on the run trying to figure out who is chasing them, who the Tripplehorns are, and all the while trying to save their marriage.

The old cliche of the mistaken identity has been used over and over again. I understand that not everything can be original and am fine with that as long as there is something new brought to the table to add to the mix. The only thing or should I say two things this movie has going for it is its two leads. The situations and events they are put through are fairly straight forward but it is the comic timing of both Fey and Carell that helps save this film from becoming a total bore. They play off one another so well you would think they have been working together for years.

Phil & Claire seek refuge with the always shirtless Holbrooke.
With two comedy giants like them it is difficult to know what was improvised and what was scripted. I would have to think that the basic situations are scripted but director Shawn Levy wisely decided to let these two do their thing. Take the initial moment when they are confronted by the two main bad guys in a back alley. Only Carell could make something as simple as a guy pointing a gun at him and turning his hand sideways into a hysterical sequence. Fey gets some good lines in there as well such as when they think they are about to be killed and how she keeps repeatedly referring to Carell's penis over and over again. I also love that she calls a flash drive a computer sticky thing.

It are little touches like those that help lift this film into something more than a cliched run through the city. They aren't the only ones though that stand out. They were able to fill most of their supporting parts with some interesting and inspired choices. When they go visit a client of Claire's named Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg) he nearly steals every scene he is in. The real genius to this though (and I am not sure who is to thank) is that Wahlberg gets all his laughs by just playing himself. His shirtless Holbrooke is a much needed break by the time he shows up halfway through the film. Plus he is responsible for one of the best placements of the F bomb (delivered by Carell) in a PG-13 movie I have seen in a long time.

Tastes shows Whippit where her home truly is.
When we finally meet the Tripplehorns, Taste (James Franco) and Whippit (Mila Kunis), they too almost steal the spot light from Carrell and Fey during their brief appearance. Their reaction to the fact that Phil and Claire stole their reservation is priceless and their unbridled devotion to one another is both ridiculous and kind of heartwarming. I must also point out that every time I heard the name Tripplehorn I couldn't stop thinking about the actress Jeanne Tripplehorn and I kind of laughed my ass off when it is revealed why they chose that as their code name. This is till Carell's and Fey's movie without a doubt but these supporting characters are exactly that, they help add something different to the proceedings and are sprinkled throughout the film in just the right places.

Thank god for that too cause the story and plot of the movie is rather bland and feels very inconsequential. To anyone that has seen other films like Blind Date, Adventures in Babysitting, or After Hours you won't see too much new here. I have to say though that even if you haven't seen any of those 80's gems that a lot of this will seem very familiar regardless. Which is due to the ho-hum subplot involving corrupt police officers, generic bad guys and the overall feel of been there done that. Each time some scene popped up that didn't involve our two stars (which was everything dealing with the police and bad guys) I checked out immediately but thankfully that didn't happen too often.

Phil & Claire have had a rough night.
There were a couple of other entertaining aspects as well, particularly an unexpected and surprisingly complicated car chase involving two cars attached at their front ends. The interaction between Carell, Fey and the driver of the car they are attached to during that chase was pretty hilarious. Also, earlier in the film in Central Park there is a getaway scene involving a little motor boat that was framed just perfectly enough to have me laugh out loud.

I suppose I actually ended up liking the film much more than I originally thought. Yeah, I had some problems with the horribly cliched plot elements and that really unnecessary confrontation on the roof at the end, but both Carell and Fey bring it home after all is said and done. Their on screen chemistry is the stuff of comedy duo legends and I can only hope that whatever they end up in next together is something more worthy of their talents. Based solely on the quality of its two leads, Date Night is a really easy recommendation for anyone looking for a lighthearted,  if somewhat forgettable good time. Heck, I believe it would even make a good flick to crack on for your own date night.



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