If Baby Mama was a big screen version of a comfortably predictable Odd Couple style TV series, then 30 Rock creator, writer and star Tina Fey's Date Night is roughly the equivalent of a traditional married with children family sitcom that hits the Fall schedule every year but fails to get picked up for a full season run.
And like Baby, this particular Date also gives off a distinctly Neil Simon inspired flavor with a set-up that recalls The Out-of-Towners rather than The Odd Couple by focusing on a married New Jersey couple who are too dull to be odd.
Additionally, given the fact that Fey joins forces with NBC Thursday night schedule mate Steve Carell from The Office, it initially comes as quite a surprise that Universal Studios isn't behind the film as a brilliant marketing strategy to help boost both TV ratings and box office.
However after seeing the film, I understand the reason the network known for comedy didn't aspire to step up and attach their brand name to this half-baked effort that -- unlike stories shared with friends about disastrous dates -- doesn't inspire empathy or much laughter.
Overall it's as awkward and embarrassing as a bad date where the supporting cast goes above and beyond the call of duty to try and make it work like a blissfully happy group of friends trying to encourage a love connection during a blind double date.
An all around misfire, Date's main duo looks visibly bored with the weak material as Night at the Museum franchise director Shawn Levy unsuccessfully marries action packed Blues Brothers meets The Fast and the Furious style CGI car chases with unrealistic domestic jokes.
Hoping to add some excitement and romance back into their marriage, rather than journeying to the same restaurant to order the same food every week for “date night” away from their two rambunctious kids, Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey) impulsively travel into New York City to visit a trendy seafood place in Manhattan.
Unable to secure a table on a busy Friday night, Phil startles his wife by impersonating a no-show couple, taking the reservation of the unseen Tripplehorns which works well until they reach the end of the meal when Phil and Claire are hustled into the alley at gunpoint by two criminals wanting to know where a stolen incriminating flash drive is located.
Yet even though they temporarily manage to escape from the clutches of the kidnappers who assumed the Fosters were the ones in possession of the mysterious flash drive that may or may not have something to do with a mobster and a district attorney, Phil and Claire's night is far from over.
Turning to one of her old real estate clients for help (Mark Wahlberg) and eventually tracking down the real Tripplehorns (James Franco and Mila Kunis), the Fosters go from one adventure to the next.
Driven less by humor and more by its stepping stone style predictable plot as each set piece and situation becomes even more outlandish than the previous one, Date Night culminates in a just plain pitiful sequence at a strip club that made me feel incredibly bad for the actors involved as if they'd wandered into a cheesy SNL skit from hell.
Relying far too much on bodily function one-liners than any original wit, one of the main problems with Date Night is that it misgauges the strengths of its stars by trying to ratchet up physical gags in place of the conversational humor they do best.
Fey and Carell are very funny, likable performers but they don't excel at pratfalls, which makes sure that the two are never all that comfortable in their parts as Date Night should've played toward their natural skills rather than just aiming for mediocrity in uninspired trailer-ready jokes and way too many scenes of the same clumsy behavior.
And even though I do applaud any attempt to go for the same anything goes, funny and flirtatious subgenre of screwball romantic comedy, unfortunately Date Night is an extraordinarily weak update, recycling gags from other movies and never offering Fey or Carell anything remotely interesting to do onscreen.
While Fox's technically stellar Blu-ray ensures that some of Shawn Levy's big action sequences play just as well on the small screen as they did in the theatre, unfortunately the disc can't hide the fact that at its best, this is one predominantly unfunny Night that even at less than ninety minutes still feels endlessly long.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review