Carell and Fey Lead Stellar Cast in Funny ‘Date Night’ (****)

Saturday, April 10, 2010
By Kevin Crossman

Date Night melds the domestic and action comedy genres to good effect, relying on the chemistry of it’s stars and wise casting choices, rather than a tight script. Steve Carell and Tina Fey headline and all-star cast but don’t be misled by the appearances of Mark Wahlberg, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Taraji P. Henson, or Ray Liotta; this movie is all about the husband and wife.

Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg

Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg

Early scenes set up the pleasant but boring lifestyle of New Jersey residents Phil and Claire Foster. He’s a tax accountant and she’s a real-estate agent who spend “date nights” away from their two kids at the same local steakhouse. Despite games of “what’s happening” where they make up stories about other patrons, there isn’t much excitement in the marriage. So, the two head to Manhattan for a night out to rekindle romance. After a case of mistaken identify, two thugs played effectively by Common and Jimmi Simpson are soon chasing the couple across Manhattan. The mix of action and comedy throughout this middle section of the film is not unlike Carell’s Get Smart and overall the results are effective.

One of the strengths of Date Night is the casting. Both Carell and Fey are perfectly cast, and compliment each other well. Fey “downplays” her one-liners, and Carell is in “loud and crazy” mode for much of the film. But both are effective during quiet, emotional scenes in each act. Carell is well known for crazy dancing in his movies and Date Night continues the trend with a hilarious scene alongside Fey as they infiltrate a strip-club in order to elude the bad guys.

Mila Kunis and James Franco

Mila Kunis and James Franco

The casting of the supporting roles is nearly as stellar and among the best in recent memory. Wahlberg’s penchant for appearing shirtly is a hilarious running gag, and two couples appear in one-scene cameos. Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo play a couple who have lost the spark, and Mila Kunis and James Franco play a young but shady couple who the bad guys were supposed to be chasing. Though Wiig is normally excellent in these quick cameos, she unfortunately doesn’t have much of a script to play with, so it comes off as fairly flat. The scene with Franco and Kunis on the other hand is a standout in the film and leverages dopey-criminal personas we’ve seen from both actors in films like Pineapple Express and Extract.

Other standouts in the cast include Liotta (Observe and Report) playing a crime-boss, and William Fictner (Blades of Glory) as a District Attorney. Henson plays a detective who may or may not be on the take. J.B. Smooth plays a cabbie in the film’s signature car chase and he’s quite good as well. After doing comedy-fantasy with the Night at the Museum films, director Shawn Levy does his best to amp up the action scenes and overall they are well done. The predictable script from Shrek 3 writer Josh Klausner is much less inspired, however.

Predictability aside, Date Night has all the makings of a fun time at the movies. If you like either Carell or Fey you’ll more than get your money’s worth, and there’s certainly enough action and emotion for either side of the typical dinner-and-movie date night.


Steve Carell and J.B. Smooth

Steve Carell and J.B. Smooth

5 Responses to “Carell and Fey Lead Stellar Cast in Funny ‘Date Night’ (****)”

  1. Bonnie

    Ugh! Sounds like a fun movie. If only Steve had a different co-star I would have loved to see this. I fell in love with him after “Get Smart” and it looks like I would have loved him here too.

  2. Kevin Crossman

    Not a fan of Tina Fey? She is quite good here.

  3. Jack

    I’m seeing this tomorrow but I thought the trailer looked pretty poor. I’ve got a free ticket so I’ll check it out.

  4. maria

    How are you not a fan of Tina Fey? She’s effing hilarious and these two are amazing together!
    Really hope they do Mail Order Groom together in the next year or two! :)

  5. I loved Date Night. The scene where they’re in that super slow boat and Tina Fey’s character is plidadng on her back makes me laugh every time haha.


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