MovieMantz Review: ‘Date Night’

“Their Hard Day’s ‘Night’”

“Date Night”
Steve Carell, Tina Fey
Directed by Shawn Levy

Shawn Levy is a prolific director whose movies, quite frankly, aren’t very good – but they sure do make a lot of money, which is why he keeps cranking them out. In addition to 2003’s remake of “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which made $139 million domestically, and 2006’s remake of “The Pink Panther,” which made $158 million worldwide, Levy directed both “Night at the Museum” movies – huge hits that grossed almost $1 billion worldwide.

The hits just keep on coming with “Date Night,” only in this case, the movie is actually pretty good (not great, mind you, but good enough). For that, you can thank Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who are perfectly matched as a boring married couple on a date from hell in New York City. Their chemistry is infectious, and that goes a long way to turn this otherwise formulaic romantic comedy into the endearing and entertaining crowd-pleaser that it is.

Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) are married with two kids, busy jobs and a house in the suburbs – but they’re exhausted. In an effort to spice up their dreary lives, they go to a posh restaurant in the city, where they check in as the Tripplehorns to get a good seat. Turns out that the Tripplehorns have some dangerous enemies, forcing the Fosters to take off for a wild night that makes them realize how good they have it – especially with each other.

Carell and Fey are such a winning team, it’s hard to believe that they’ve never worked together before. Maybe that’s because they each topline their own hit shows for NBC – “The Office” and “30 Rock,” respectively. “Date Night” isn’t as sharply written as either show, but it’s very charming and features good-natured supporting turns from Ray Liotta as a mobster, James Franco and Mila Kunis as a sleazy young couple and a shirtless Mark Wahlberg, who’s game for showing off his pecs the entire time he’s onscreen.

Shawn Levy plays to his strengths, preferring his usual brand of broad comedy, slapstick, action and contrived moments of tenderness over a weak screenplay that could have used a little more wit or intelligence. But Carell and Fey pick up the slack, and it’s just 87 minutes long, so it still works. That makes “Date Night” a worthy-enough date night movie – and it’s bound to make a lot of money, so I guess that means Levy will crank another one out soon enough.

Verdict: SEE IT!

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