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Movie Review

Date Night

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Date Night
Steve Carell and Tina Fey are as natural a movie couple as Sam Worthington and a green screen or Nicolas Cage and failure. Carell is one of the top breakout comedy stars of the last decade. Fey is, as Alec Baldwin called her, "the Elaine May of her generation." Both have critically-adored sitcoms that air Thursday nights on the least critically adored broadcast network: NBC. Their team-up seems to have been fated by the gods—which is part of what's bothersome about their new movie, "Date Night."

Don't misunderstand. Carell and Fey display great chemistry as a married couple who break from their routine for a night on the town, only to find themselves mistaken for crooks and running from the mob. But the synergy of their pairing seems too commercially convenient, one of several places where the film gets caught pandering to its target audience: suburban parents, about Carell and Fey's age, on a date night. You're reminded of who that audience is every time the shooting or the jokes stop so that Carell and Fey can earnestly whine about how they don't have enough sex and their kids are exhausting and blah blah blah. In these moments—which aren't unanticipated but come far too often—you wish the thugs on their tail would put one of them out of his or her misery so the other would have something to really complain about.

When they can manage to shut up about what a wretched slog it is to be married, white, and affluent, Carell and Fey can be funny. Many of the movie's best moments come when the two are obviously improvising. As comedians, they play well with each other—and with the parade of famous actors marched through the film in supporting roles, including Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, and Mila Kunis. But director Shawn Levy and writer Josh Klausner too often fail their stars. On top of the overreaching to connect with a particular demographic, "Date Night" suffers from a surprising number of dead laugh lines. Worse yet, it asks us to believe that these two intelligent, funny, mostly likable people would be dumb enough to get caught up in this sort of mess, then never does anything to earn that suspension of disbelief. Of course, smart people sometimes do stupid things—just as smart comedians sometimes make movies that are beneath them.


Genre: Comedy
Written by: Josh Klausner
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson

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