Nothing is more frustrating than watching a film with a great premise and a talented group of actors only to watch it be completely and totally squandered by a talentless filmmaker. This is what ruins Date Night. The premise is basically a cross between Adventures in Babysitting and the Out-of-Towners and it stars the hilarious and very talented due of Steve Carell and Tina Fey. With this combination, anyone should be asking how a filmmaker can possibly fuck this up. Date Night ends up being a film thats JUST THERE right on the edge of being brilliant.

If you can’t figure it out, Date Night is about a married couple (Fey and Carrell) whose marriage has gone stagnant. After learning that one of their married couple friends are about to get a divorce, Carrell decides to jumpstart his relationship and put some life back into the marriage. Instead of going to their usual boring restaurant on their weekly ‘date night,’ the couple decides to head into NYC and try out a trendy restaurant. Unable to get in because they have no reservations, the couple gets around this by lying to the hostess and identifying themselves as one of the parties on the list. Little do they know that the couple whose table they just took is involved in a dangerous game involving the mob. The rest of the movie turns into a case of mistaken identity where Carrell and Fey are chased down by gangster’s goons for a flash drive that contains secret information.

Date Night actually sets up well in the first act. We get introduced to the crazy mundane life of this married couple and all the frustrations that come with it. This almost made me wish that the film had simply been about marriage and raising children rather than the action comedy it later becomes. As my friend put it, once the story really begins and the couple is on the run, the film falls apart. Aside from the illogical narrative conveniences (AKA lazy screenwriting), many of the setups throughout the film are flat and defy all logic. For example, there is a scene where the couple is trying to get away from the bad guys in a luxurious sports car. They accidentally slam head-on into a taxi cab and the two cars become interlocked. After unsuccessfully trying to separate the cars, the couple simply drives around town in the sports car with the taxi attached to the front. I understand this movie is meant to be somewhat over-the-top, but to have shit like this? C’mon!! Other scenes in the film appear to build up to something, but in the end nothing comes of any of them. For instance, we get introduced to Marky Mark’s character, who lives in a swank high-tech Manhattan pad and we learn that he does black op intelligence stuff for different governments. Okay. Now you would probably expect all this information to somehow come into play later like in a scene where Marky Mark goes to town on some baddies. Nope. There is nothing This film reminded me of another film that similarly balanced comedy and action, but in a much more successful manner. This film was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which in my opinion was highly entertaining, funny, and the action struck a fine balance between being over-the-top and exciting. That film is what Date Night should have been and unfortunately it was not.

The sad thing is that Steve Carrell and Tina Fey do their best here. Both are funny and they produce great chemistry together. I was expecting Fey to be the funnier of the two, but Carrell does a great job and I think it may be his best cinematic work since 40-Year-Old Virgin. There are two particularly hilarious scenes: one has the couple deal with a snotty hostess at a trendy restaurant and the other is perhaps the best dance scene you will see this year. Still, I expected a little more out of both actors. I have seen them be tear-inducing uproarious in the past and together they should have delivered comedy on a golden platter. Instead, they appeared to be holding back and I don’t know why that was. In fact, the sad thing is that the blooper outtakes in the end credits are funnier than anything in the film. As for the rest of the cast, it delivers, especially Marky Mark, who plays up his smooth, sex icon status. Overall, the characters all do the best they can with the material they were given.

The problem isn’t the cast. Its the shithole script by John Klausner and the direction by Shawn Levy. Klausner’s past credits are Shrek 3 and the upcoming Shrek 4. Levy is the poisonously untalented hack behind such films as Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther, A Night at the Museum and its sequel. It makes you wonder how in hell people like this continue to find work when everything they touch (despite the big box office they generate) is pure crap. The premise and the talent these filmmakers were given to work with was far beyond their capabilities and, not surprisingly, they fucked it up.

Date Night is a film of unrealized potential. In better hands, it could have been this year’s Hangover and turned into something that people 10 years from now could cite as one of the great comedies of the decade. How often do you see comic superstars like Tina Fey and Steve Carrell together in a movie? The work they put out on television is far more sophisticated than the drivel that is Date Night. I don’t know what the fuck the screenwriter was thinking by writing comedy for these stars. Didn’t it make more sense to allow them to improvise their dialogue? Anyway, I can go on and on how bad this movie was. Save your $10.50 and spend it on something more worthy of your time like….HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON!!

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