It’s been said that comedy is one of the hardest genres to work in, as it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what will make people laugh, as opposed to what will simply fall flat. There’s also the question to what type of comedy you’re attempting to make, which in turn, can change how everything has to be perceived. In Date Night, Steve Carell and Tina Fey (arguably the top two comedians on television today) are assigned the task of being the ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances, usually a sure-fire way to bring the laughs.
Carell and Fey star as Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple with two children who have fallen into a set routine with their lives. They aren’t unhappy but they aren’t exactly happy either; they’re more or less simply existing. When they hear that two of their friends are getting a divorce, mainly based on the fact that they’d lost that loving feeling, and had become perfect roommates instead of lovers, Phil and Claire begin to think about their relationship, and the path it’s taken from when they first started dating.
Thinking they were keeping things fresh and romantic by having a weekly “date night,” in which they go out to dinner at the same restaurant at the same table with the same waiters and end up discussing the kids (and what they have scheduled for the rest of the week), the Fosters now realized even their night out was mundane as well. Desperate to freshen things up, Phil takes Claire into the city (downtown New York) and attempts to get them a table at the most popular restaurant in town. Without a reservation, however, this plan is squashed flat. While Claire wants to call it a night Phil refuses; realizing that this is his chance to spice things up and turn things around in their relationship, he steals the reservation of a couple who aren’t around to answer the call of the hostess.
Now enjoying dinner as the Triplehorns, Phil and Claire are full of smiles, feeling rebellious and carefree having secured the table the way they did; though that feeling doesn’t last long, as they soon find themselves being escorted out by two men with guns, and realize that the Triplehorns are in quite a bit of trouble, and as far as these armed men are concerned, they are the Triplehorns.
Cases of mistaken identity is another can be comedic gold if done correctly, and while Date Night doesn’t do anything new with the formula, they also don’t completely destroy it either. With the Fosters on the run throughout the night, trying to clear their names, scenarios present themselves that do equal quite a bit of laughs. Mark Wahlberg has a supporting role as Holbrooke, a man of mystery who likes fancy gadgets and not wearing a shirt. When in trouble, Claire (a real-estate agent) remembers showing him around and believes that if anyone can help them it’s him. The scenes with Wahlberg are some of the funnier ones in the film so much so that the comedy sometimes seems lost when it’s just Carell and Fey together.
That’s not to say the two don’t have solid chemistry, they do, it’s just that you feel that they could have done so much more with their skills over what they’re given in the end. Another example of smaller roles helping make the movie would be James Franco’s small role as a small-time crook named Taste. He lives in an apartment with his girlfriend Whippit (Mila Kunis) and the two cross paths with the Fosters’ during the night. Franco is hilarious and continues his streak of stealing the show no matter what movie he’s in or how big the role. Here he pleads that he wants more out of life, “Like I wanna spend the rest of my life selling stolen wheelchairs!”
There are humorous scenes between Fey and Carell, it’s just that the flow of the film stays inconsistent. When the scenes involving the supporting actors mentioned above take place it ups everyone’s game and you just know that they could have done so much more with the time the two were alone. It’s not that the film falls flat completely, it’s just that it’s chuckle worthy more than it is howl worthy.
The story is solid enough to keep the viewers interest, and keep them guessing as to how exactly the Fosters’ are going to get themselves out of the jam they’re in all because they wanted a night on the town they’d remember; which to some, will be enough. Others, however, will wish that there were more original laughs to be had over watching these gifted comedians being forced to take the obvious route.
While it’s always nice to leave a comedy with your sides hurting from laughter, it isn’t always a necessity in order for a film to be fun. Date Night has its share of laughs, as well as some memorable cameos. It’s not going to go down as one of the more memorable comedies of the year but it also won’t go down as one of the worst and is at least worth a single viewing; though take out the cameos, and it’d likely be a different story.
The audio, using 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, comes out clearly, with words as well as sounds staying consistent, with no need to adjust the volume throughout. The video is a full 1080p Digital presentation in 2.35:1 Widescreen, and for the most part, there’s nothing distracting from the visuals, as colors look sharp, and with most of the film taking place in the darkened city streets, the use of water on the ground helps to liven up the colors and images throughout.
The Blu-ray version comes with 2 discs in the package, one of which is a Digital copy, while the other is the Blu-ray disc itself. The Blu-ray consists of the theatrical cut of the film, as well as the extended version.
Audio Commentary - Director Shawn Levy gives a commentary on the theatrical version of the film, and Levy is quite happy to talk about his works here. His enthusiasm is a nice touch, as it shows that he actually cares about his work, and what people will think of it.
Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes - These are exactly what they sound like, and are here if you find them interesting.
Directing 301 Featurette - This is where things get very cool as far as extras go on the Date Night disc, as this featurette runs at almost 22 minutes long, and basically is a “Day in the life…” of filming Date Night. The scenes they’re filming the night they make this little gem are of Phil and Claire outside their first apartment (it never made the final cut of the film) and showing up at Holbrooke’s loft. It’s incredibly interesting, and it’s here we see that it rained most of the time during the shoot, though that was counter-balanced by a trick to make the shots more vibrant and stand out, where they hosed down the city streets with water between shots. There’s a lot of information here, and we meet a lot of the behind-the-scenes crew and see what they do. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Disaster Dates - This featurette runs at almost 5 minutes and has some of the cast talk about their worst dates ever. It’s a nice piece of fluff considering the theme of the film and all.
Directing Off-Camera - This one runs at just under 4 minutes, and shows how during the strip club scene, Levy shouted different positions and manoeuvres to Fey and Carell. It’s funny to see how the actors react when a certain order is barked out and is a fun watch after you’ve seen the actual scene in the film.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey Camera Tests - It’s interesting to note that the shot mostly used for publicity photos, movie posters, and billboards for the film was actually taken during this camera test, where it’s usually just a time to show off various outfits and lighting techniques the director is planning on using to show the studio.
Gag Reel - Much like after the credits, the outtakes are quite funny. The improve done by Fey and Carell show their comedic timing, and quick wit, and some of the lines are funnier than the ones that made the final cut.
Public Service Announcements - There are three PSA, that all run at a combine two minutes. One of them, where Fey talks about using the Internet, is quite humorous while the other two are just alright.
BD-LIVE: Live Lookup - This is a handful of sneak peaks, as well as an interview or two of other films and their trailers.
Date Night, to me, landed somewhere between a good film and an average film. I have no doubt that it could have been better, though, it is what it is at this point. The cameos definitely help the movie rise above average and I have to at least recommend it as a rental. It’s enjoyable once but more than that leaves it significantly less funny.
20th Century Fox presents Date Night. Directed by: Shawn Levy. Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey. Written by: Josh Klausner. Running time: 88 minutes (Theatrical) 101 minutes (Extended). Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: August 10, 2010.