Steve Carell as Phil Foster
Tina Fey as Claire Foster
Mark Wahlberg as Holbrooke
Taraji P. Henson as Detective Arroyo
Jimmi Simpson as Armstrong
Common as Collins
William Fichtner as DA Frank Crenshaw
Leighton Meester as Katy
Kristen Wiig as Haley Sullivan
Mark Ruffalo as Brad Sullivan
James Franco as Taste
Mila Kunis as Whippet
Bill Burr as Detective Walsh
Jonathan Morgan Heit as Oliver Foster
Savannah Paige Rae as Charlotte Foster
A fairly high-powered cast gives a bit of an edge to this action-oriented romcom that takes the old “Three’s Company” misunderstanding trick to a whole new level. Throw in a shirtless Mark Wahlberg and Tina Fey at her cutest and there is a little something for everyone in this harmless relationship movie that ultimately ends just as you’d expect.
“Date Night” is Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference.
The Fosters are your typical suburban family… hard-working, honest, but completely exhausted and stuck in a bit of a rut. In an attempt to shake things up, the New Jersey couple spends their ritualistic ‘date night’ in under the lights of the Big Apple at a posh, trendy restaurant. When Phil opts to take another couple’s reservation (because the Fosters didn’t actually have one), it sets off a chain of events revolving around their mistaken identity, a missing flash drive, a pair of crooked cops, a pasta-eating mobster, a broom-wielding and fetish-prone district attorney and a half-clothed security specialist.
I had zero expectations going into “Date Night.” It looked from the trailer that it was going to trend in the vein of recent, more edgy couples movies and that turned out to be true. For what at its core is a romcom, “Date Night” has quite a bit of action in it… and in the end, it’s the action that gives it more traction than many of its peer films. The action culminates in a unique car chase through the busy streets of NYC that plays well, even if it does some serious damage to a very sweet Audi R8 (and a hapless yellow cab).
The performances in “Date Night” are good overall. I think Tina Fey can and likely will be a bigger player in Hollywood when it comes to comedy roles for women going forward. She’s got great comedic timing and the kind of personality and charm people gravitate towards. Steve Carell is good as well, though I’m not fully sold on the brand of ‘comedic confusion’ that he leans on heavily in this and previous roles – like his schtick of saying awkward things in an attempt to be funny, then backtracking only to say it again.
The rest of the cast reads like a who’s who. Seriously… there are A LOT of familiar faces in this movie. I was pretty shocked by the sheer number of ‘name’ stars present. Mark Wahlberg is classic as a hunked-up security specialist that comes to the aid of the Fosters. Franco and Kunis are pretty damn funny as the couple (a slacker and a stripper) whose reservation was swiped. They are not on screen long, but their scene ranks as one of the funniest in the movie. Then there’s Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo as the Sullivans. These roles are minor and wasted on the talent, but the actors do good jobs in these very limited efforts.
As crazed as some of the parts of the movie are, it is not difficult to strip them away and see the formula… and that is the film’s downfall. Once you look past the outlandishness of the Fosters’ night on the town (think “Adventures in Babysitting” for grown ups, or even Scorsese’s “After Hours”), you know exactly how the story will end. I kept waiting to be thrown a curve ball in the third act, but it never came. So the timeline goes per the formula… you have a couple stuck in a rut, couple sees other couples they identify with calling it quits, couple questions their relationship, couple goes through extraordinary experience together, couple is all better, the end. It’s the same, or similar, hackneyed premise that has plagued romcoms for years.
Kudos for inserting the action sequences, but director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum,” “Night at the Museum 2”) and writer Josh Klausner (“Shrek Forever After”) would have been better served treading off of the beaten path even further, but alas, we get what we expect all along.
While this is Carell and Fay’s movie, for me, all the fun in “Date Night” resides in the role players – which also include G4’s Olivia Munn, pop star Will.I.Am, Leighton Meester and Ray Liotta (See what I mean, EVERYBODY is in this movie!). However, about half way into “Date Night,” my attention got pulled from the actual events on the screen to wondering who else was going to pop up… and that’s not a good thing. Ensemble is one thing… cameo hell is another.
In the end, fans of Carell’s humor and Fay’s big screen potential will likely enjoy “Date Night” more than I did. For others, that just may be curious about the movie, I’d recommend waiting for the DVD release and renting it as there are some laughs here. It’s not terrible, but it is formula… no matter how the filmmakers tried to hide it.