Carell and Fey have fun 'Date,' if nothing special

Article Published: Apr. 15, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Carell and Fey have fun 'Date,' if nothing special

Tina Fey and Steve Carell star in 'Date Night.'

The good news is that Date Night is exactly what one would expect from the previews: silly, funny and light.

It's got plenty of good jokes and some excellent back-and-forth conversations between Carell and Fey, but it's also very crowd-friendly for two comedians that frequently enjoy pushing the boundaries - in intelligent ways.

Date Night still contains some rather risque humor since the studios have figured out how much they can get away with in a movie and keep it rated PG-13. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) and writer Josh Klausner (Shrek Forever After) seem to know exactly how much vulgarity they can get into the PG-13 and take full advantage of it, but it's primarily just silly potty humor and humorous-sounding combinations of dirty words.

While these word combinations are indeed funny - I laughed hard several times during Date Night - the film simply isn't on the level that Carell and Fey function best at. Carell spent five years as a correspondent on The Daily Show before breaking out in smart comedies like television's The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine. Fey spent 10 years on Saturday Night Live - many as head writer - before delivering irreverent, but smart and realistic, comedies with Mean Girls and Baby Mama.

Since there's nothing new or original in Date Night, I wonder what attracted these stars to the film. The set-up is fairly simple: Phil and Claire Foster are fairly bored, working normal jobs and raising their kids. But, after their good friends decide to separate, they decide to spice up their date night from the usual steak restaurant by going to a hip new restaurant in New York City.

They get there late and can't get a reservation, so Phil impulsively takes a reservation from a couple that appears to be a no-show. They appear to be having a great time, too, until two thugs show up and demand they return a thumb drive full of incriminating information that the people who made the reservation were using to blackmail gangster Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta).

Plenty of wacky adventures then occur as the Fosters try to clear their name and avoid getting shot in the process. There's one particularly good car chase, proving both exciting and funny, but most of the adventures are predictable and a little cliche.

Date Night does have a great supporting cast, however, as Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis and Mark Ruffalo all show up to steal a scene or two. They add some laughs, to be sure, but it's usually a bad sign when the supporting characters are funnier and more interesting than the leads.

All of this is about what I expected from a Shawn Levy film, as the director has proven capable of making studio-friendly films. Big Fat Liar, Cheaper by the Dozen and Museum were all perfectly likable films that were silly and light but never anything special. Levy seems to simply do what he is told to do and is pretty good at it despite having no discernable style of his own.

I think the previews for Date Night were fair, to say the least, and audiences will get exactly what they expect. It's just a pity that the film isn't even as funny as either of their TV shows that cost a lot less to watch.

Date Night is rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference. It is currently playing at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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