Fey and Carell have great comedic chemistry in ‘Date Night’
It’s no secret that I love Tina Fey. As she so brilliantly put in it 30 Rock, “she is my heroine, and by that I mean lady hero and not that I want to inject her and listen to jazz.” The new comedy Date Night teams her up with Steve Carell in what might seem like a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. Instead, the film is witty and boasts truly funny performances from its cast.
Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a boring married couple from New Jersey who lead monotonous lives. Each week, they try to revive the spark in their marriage by going on a date night at the same local restaurant, but even that has become a lackluster event. The breakup of two of their close friends triggers them to add some excitement to their lives and they decide to go for a night on the town at Manhattan’s newest trendy restaurant. When they realize they needed to book months in advance just to get a table, they hatch a plan to take another reservation and thus they become the Tripplehorns. Of course, they never expect that the real Tripplehorns are a couple of con artists who are mixed up with crooked cops and the mob. The little mistake leads them on a series of perilous and hilarious adventures as they realize that maybe their simple lives weren’t actually so bad.
The plot sounds like a rom-com twist on The Man Who Knew Too Little, but what separates it from falling into the category of mediocre comedy is the performances from the cast. Fey and Carell have absolutely fantastic chemistry and their comedic timing seems almost identical. In one scene, Claire tries to escape from two crooked cops by making an excuse about Phil desperately needing medication. As the villains look on, she screams that Phil’s life could be in danger unless he can get penis medication. Carell matches her joke by joke as he vehemently denies the claim. A blooper reel over the end credits also shows that Fey and Carell are quite evenly matched when it comes to improving lines.
It’s not just the two stars that make this film better than expected. Common and Jimmi Simpson (who fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will remember as Liam McPolye) expertly parody the traditional movie bad guy archetype and Ray Liotta rounds out the cast of seedy criminals trying to hunt down the couple. James Franco and Mila Kunis are just as fun, playing the real-life Tripplehorns who are blackmailing the District Attorney (William Fitchner) with information stored on a coveted flash drive. Mark Wahlberg is perfect as a buff, shirtless former client of Claire’s who helps the couple escape from danger and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson is spot-on as an inquisitive cop who tries to get to the bottom of the situation. The cameo from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove as a cab driver who has a run in with the couple (literally) is the icing on the casting cake.
The only real flaw with Date Night is that it’s PG-13 rating holds it back from going for the serious jokes. As Carell and Fey endure numerous mishaps without uttering a so much as an f-bomb, you can’t help but wonder how much funnier the film would have been if they had the freedom to venture into R-rated territory. At times the movie can feel a bit like the NBC sitcoms that made Fey and Carell household names instead of something more edgy like the comedies on HBO.
Despite it’s lighter jokes, Date Night is definitely better than I hoped. With a stellar supporting cast and two fantastic comedians in the leading roles, it creates some genuine laughs. But, like I said, Tina Fey can do no wrong in my book.