Movie Review: Date Night

So-so action comedy saved by Tina Fey and Steve Carrell

Date Night
Cert: 15, 88 mins
Starring: Tina Fey, Steve Carell

By rights, Date Night should be a terrifying proposition, arriving as it does, the latest from that most fear-inducing of cinematic sub-genres: the marital action-comedy.

After all, this is a genre that’s recently given us Mr and Mrs Smith, The Bounty Hunter and Did You Hear About The Morgans?. Yet on the other hand, the couple in question are played by Tina Fey and Steve Carell, so how bad can it be?

Well, bad enough to make you think that two of the most talented comic actors in Hollywood have been given a raw deal, but good enough to make you realise they certainly did the best with what they had.

In any other hands, this could be unwatchable – a mish-mash of half-jokes, action slapstick and schmaltzy marital drama that forever seems content to go for light chuckles rather than full belly-laughs, and in doing so, runs the very real risk of getting a stoney silence.

It’s saved by Fey and Carell – but only just. They play Claire and Phil Foster, a bored, harrased married couple who decide to spice up their regular date-night with a trip into town, and have dinner in a swanky New York restaurant. Cue a case of mistaken identity, and before they know it they’re being chased around by bad guys who think they’re the Tripplehorns, and must survive all manner of car chases, flying bullets and, in more than one instance, the naked torso of Mark Wahlberg.

It’s not that any jokes are awful, but this is clearly a film designed to appeal to as many people as possible, and in doing so, offending as few.

It falls to Fey, in the most part, to kick the film into life. There’s something in the way she zips off a line like “I’m going to have to eat that risotto from the floor now!” (when the bad guys have smashed it from her hands) that makes them the best in the film, despite not seeming that funny on paper.

Why? Because they’re lines about small things, delivered with an endearing acceptance of life’s perpetual disappointments (familiar, of course, to anyone who’s seen her as Liz Lemon in 30 Rock) that manage to undercut the life-threatening crash-bang-wallop around her, and remind us of the film’s essential set-up: a normal couple in a very abnormal situatiuon.

Too often, the film seems to forget this itself – by the time Wahlberg helps them out via the kind of technology usually only found in Bruce Wayne‘s Batcave, and both seem to develop the skill-set of a below-average super-spy, the whole comic conceit is that much less funny, traded for action scenes that, in turn, become that much less exciting. It’s still fun, just don’t give up a date for it.

Stuart McGurk

6 out of 10