Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Catching up with 2010: Capsule Review – Date Night

Here's the type of comedy that just doesn't work in 2010. The actors, bless their hearts, try their hardest to make this pseudo-screwball comedy work, but the writing and the directing (specifically the asinine idea to add 20 minutes to the film for home release) completely derail the film. In other words: it's hard to make a screwball comedy in 2010 because directors and studios think screwball today equates to guns, car chases, and poorly directed action scenes involving normal, everyday people. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are Phil and Clair Foster, a married couple looking to have an exciting date night in New York City after hearing about how their friends' (great supporting performances from Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) marriage has died due to lack of excitement. What happens, of course, is a misunderstanding in the city that puts the Foster's smack in the middle of a situation involving crooked cops, a corrupt D.A., and a coveted flash drive that links the cops with the D.A. with a mob boss (Ray Liotta).

It's all a convoluted mess that results in more groan inducing moments than laughs. Part of the problem is that director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum films) has no idea how to direct a comedy (or an action picture for that matter). The actors do their best to show the appropriate emotion as all of the screwy madness swirls around their normalcy, and half the fun of the movie is just looking at the Fosters as they experience these crazy situations. However, the banter between Carell and Fey is mediocre at best (Fey really isn't a movie star, her performance was all wrong for a film), and they are upstaged by the supporting cast that includes the aforementioned Ruffalo, Wiig, and Liotta; as well as James Franco (in a role that steals the film, and actually makes it worth watching), Mila Kunis, and Mark Wahlberg (another great comedic performance). When it's all said and done the film is too long at 108 minutes (the theatrical version was 88 minutes…so you're telling me they felt the need to add 20 minutes to the DVD!) as there are countless scenes that kill the momentum of the film, and I imagine had I seen this in the theater the pacing would have been quicker (adding to the screwball element) and more tolerable; instead, the pacing is atrocious, specifically a scene near the end where the Foster's must pose as strippers. It just killed the film right there for me. If you run across the film on TV late at night it's worth checking out for the scenes with Wahlberg, Franco, and Kunis. Everything else in Date Night is a big time failure.


  1. I wrote that watching this film made me wish Steve Carell and Tina Fey invited me to a party at their homes, so I could fart on their pillows.

    Great comedic actors, but so little for them to do! The supporting cast held it together somewhat. I had no idea it was so padded for home release. Perhaps with 20 minutes cut it wouldn't have been so intolerable!

  2. Even in the theater, it felt a bit draggy to me. The thought of it being 20 minutes longer... the mind reels.

  3. Well, I'll be the dissenting voice here. I worried the film was going to be exactly what you say it is. Instead, I think it's the funniest film I've seen so far in 2010, which, granted, hasn't been a great year for comedy (each of the last two years has been trying to live up to the great standard set by 2008). I do agree that the cameos are probably the best parts, but I also really liked the relationship between Phil and Claire. I thought Fey was fine, but the one who really impressed me was Carell, since I have found him to be so stiff in films like Dan in Real Life and Get Smart (both stinkers, I hope you will agree). I thought he seemed relaxed here, and that worked for me.

    So, we totally disagree, but hey, I guess that's what makes watching movies interesting.

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