Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carrell and Tina Fey) are a normal suburban couple. When they hear that their friends are getting divorced, they decided to try and inject some spice into their relationship by going on a date night. The problems begin when they steal another couple’s reservation at a very fancy, very busy restaurant, and don’t stop until they have wrecked up half of Manhattan and a very beautiful car in the process.
This film should have been brilliant. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are both the stars of two very successful NBC shows – The Office and 30 Rock – but there is something missing from the film. The banter and chemistry between the two is easy, but then there are moments when the dialogue seems forced and unnatural – this is a shame because both actors seems to be at ease and natural on the small screen. The film is based on the two leads, and when they don’t seem to believe what they are saying, then the audience doesn’t either. That said, there are some truly brilliant moments and lines of dialogue, like the conversation about the difference between ‘bumped off’ and ‘whacked off’ or Fey’s frustration with technology; ‘Aw! Not the rainbow wheel!’
James Franco and Mila Kunis as the couple whose reservation the Fosters steal are fine. They are not outstanding. We have seen them do better before. Especially James Franco, but they don’t distract from Carrell and Fey, which seems to be exactly what they are meant to do.
The story is what it is, which is a vessel for Fey and Carrell. It could have been unpredictable and snappy, but scenes are often dragged out and overplayed. Director Shawn Levy’s films have gone on to gross mega-bucks – and Date Night is sure to be no different – but the problem with Levy is that he relies too much on his stars being able to improvise a great line or slapstick joke. He does not reign them in for the sake of the film, he lets them run wild, which results in some sloppy comedy. Sad to say, Date Night is one of those films.
The film is fine. There are some genuinely funny moments. It’s worth a look if you have missed everything else showing that night at the cinema, or as a date movie when you don’t really care what you are going to see, but a partnership between two of TVs hottest comedy stars should have been better, it should have been snappier, quicker and a lot more spontaneous. Shame.