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Review: Date Night by DrChocolate


Why has it taken this long for Tina Fey and Steve Carrell to get together? Unfortunately, why couldn’t it have been in a better project. They’re two of the funnier, smarter comics working in entertainment today and I don’t quite understand why they agreed to finally combine forces in such a broad, middling comedy as this one.

These two comedians have become stars by being part of whip smart, incisive, and often brilliant, TV shows and movies. (Although I really believe that “The Office” has been in a slow, truly disappointing tailspin for about a season and a half now, maybe longer.) I dearly wanted this movie to be as sharp and rapid fire as their previous material, they have set such a high bar (I’m ignoring “Evan Almighty”); instead it’s broad and inconsistent. To be fair, I laughed frequently and hard at certain points, but it was mostly when it felt like Tina and Steve were riffing and going off script. Of particular note are some loopy sequences at a hipper-than-thou restaurant and when a perpetually shirtless Mark Wahlberg is with them. But between the slapstick action scenes (including cops who shoot guns worse than an ‘80’s GI Joe cartoon) and goofy encounters, it sags and there’s some pretty serious discussion of stagnant marriages and love that seems shoe-horned in from another movie to give the whole thing some “heart.” There are a number of empty cameos and unnecessary bit parts too, that are wasted on a list of respectable actors like Mark Ruffalo, Ray Liotta, lead player in where-have-I-seen-him-before-games William Fichtner; and Taraji Henson; not too mention some funny comics like Kristen Wiig and Bill Burr in unfunny parts. However, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Wahlberg do generate some genuine laughs.

Additionally the story of needing to “romantically jump-start a stalled, but good marriage, with action shenanigans” feels stale and familiar. Again, I was hoping, maybe dreaming, that the pairing of Fey and Carrell could bring somtehing fresh to this sub-sub-genre. It starts of promising enough but by the time the whole case of mistaken-identity-and-crooks is sorted out I had a “who did what to what know?” moment followed quickly by an “awwh, who cares anyway” moment. Without the leads considerable talents and charm the whole movie would probably have sunk into “Wild Hogs” territory. It’s easy to see these same roles being done, too much less success but much louder results, by some pairing of Kevin James and Sarah Jessica Paker or Ashton Kutcher and whatever vapid blond is hot at the moment. Really, though, what was I expecting from the director of such comedic gems as “Night at the Museum” and “The Pink Panther” remake.

I’m not going to flat out recommend this because it’s just too disappointing, maybe a matinee to see Fey and Carrell together, but more like a Red Box weekend in the pj’s; or if you thought “Old Dogs” was HI-sterical. It’s like cotton candy, looks pretty and has a flash of fizzy, sugary fun but once consumed it dissolves away and leaves you still hungry. Here’s to hoping Tina and Steve get together again, and soon, in a vehicle much better suited to their respective talents.