Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Review: Date Night

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I don’t know if I like “Date Night” because it was good, or because my wife and I could have been the couple depicted in the film. This film aims squarely at the professional married couple, in their late thirties or forties, both working, who have young kids (because they waited to have kids until they owned a house), who love each other very much, who – perhaps - long for some of the fire and freedom of their early courtship, and who are tired. Very tired. As Phil and Claire Foster, played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, are pummeled by their children at 5:30 in the morning, Phil mutters “And it begins”. Heck. That could’ve been this morning.

Now, given the movie’s title, it’s no surprise the plot takes off during a “Date Night” where they leave the kids with a sitter and go have salmon and potato skins at the same restauran. In an effort to mix things up, to bring a little spark the latent coals of their desire, Phil takes Claire to a fancy Manhattan restaurant where they tell a lie to get a seat. A case of mistaken identity follows leading to a series of chases, fights, gunfights, encounters with a shirtless Marc Wahlberg, and mild hilarity.

Tina Fey and Steve Carell in a shoot ‘em up?! Well, yes. Does it work? Well, sort of

It works, sort of, because Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are not only funny actors but good. Sure they have ticks like Steve’s funny voices and Tina’s sideways glances, but they’re both watchable and believable. What more do you want from actors in a rambunctious action slash comedy? That said, the actors are clearly more comfortable in their comic back and forth than in the running, diving, driving, and ducking bullets. Plus the subplot that drives the action is never well developed, and, frankly, stupid. So the thriller aspects of this film never really thrill you. Ronin, this movie is not.

But I love Tina Fey. She’s smart and funny. Steve Carell is great too. The two look like they could actually be married, rare for a movie couple, and both look their age. There’s an underlying intelligence to their interactions that should have been showcased even more. For instance, in a bit when the two pose as a stripper and pimp, Tina Fey has a hard time finding an outfit to cover her cesarean scar. It’s one of the funny parts in a rather low point in the film, in part because it felt real. How do you cover your cesarean scar when putting on a hoochie mama dress? I felt a tinge of sympathy as these characters faced their age. It was a poignant moment and hinted at the better movie this could’ve been.

So, the film is watchable solely based on the talents of Ms. Fey and Mr. Carrel. I’m disappointed. These two deserve a better movie and I hope they team up again.

Anyway, if you’re married, and it is date night, and the kids are healthy, and you’re not too exhausted, and you can find a sitter, and there’s no dance recital or soccer game, and there’s no ski or Spanish lessons in the morning, and you want to see a movie, this one will resonate with you. If you are young, single, without kids, get to sleep in, stay out late, party, and work out regularly, well, I hate you.

Um, “Date Night” is playing this weekend at Gross Alaska Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.