Movie Review: Date Night, starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco and Common (with trailer video and a poll)

Carell and Fey play the Fosters, who are like a lot of married couples, I guess: They live in a suburban home overrun with kids, work well-paying but ultimately meaningless jobs, lack sleep and generally seem stuck in a rut. After even their date nights grind into a boring routine, the Foster's decided to head to the Big Apple for a fancy dinner at an ultra-trendy new restaurant. Lacking a reservation and looking for mercy from the staff,  the snooty maître d' sends them to the bar to wait until the end of time instead. That's when Carell impulsively decides to claim the table reserved by a couple of obvious no-shows named Triplehorn. Bad idea. Soon, a pair of goons show up and escort the unsuspecting couple into the alley before pointing guns at their heads.

The Triplehorns are apparently mixed up in some intrigue involving a flash dive, a local crime lord (Ray Liotta) and the District Attorney (William Fichtner), and though the Foster's plead their (incredibly believable) case of mistaken identity, the (incredibly stupid) goons don't buy it. Of course not, because if they did the movie would be over. Instead, a long chase results, in which the Fosters try and figure out what's going on, who's after them, and how to just get back to their quiet home and children. Their journey takes them all over NYC (Central Park, Times Square and other tourist attractions get cameos), and involves run-ins with a shirtless Mark Wahlberg, some dirty cops (Jimmy Simpson and rapper Common), one clean one (Taraji P. Henson) and, of course, the Triplhorns themselves (James Franco and Mila Kunis) — a pair of scumbags who can't fathom how someone could sink low enough to swipe another person's dinner reservation.


All the actors I just mentioned are fine in there roles. I especially liked Franco and Kunis, who in a few short seconds (they're on screen for less than 5 minutes) milk a few laughs from this tired, tired material. But nothing that happens in Date Night makes much sense at all. For example: After initially escaping from their armed captors, Carell and Fey go on a crime spree during which they break into a real estate office, and end up stealing a gun and a sports car from Wahlberg's character. With both the gun and car thoroughly demolished, the pair head back to Wahlberg's for some more help — and he gives it! I realize that this is supposed to be a screwball comedy and that realism isn't tops on the film maker's list, but Date Night is an insult to the audience's intelligence. Which is surprising, since Carell and Fey are among the smartest people working in comedy today.

I got married six months ago, which means I'm now repeatedly asked when the wife and I are going to start having babies. After watching Date Night, I'm thinking I might pass. (Sorry, honey.) Does having kids really have to turn you into an insufferable, boring ass hole? That's how Fey and Carell play it, their characters shuffling through life, fighting off sleep-deprivation to sit through excruciating book club meetings and eat out at crappy local dives in their limited time away from the little ones. I know it's supposed to be a comedy, but Date Night makes having a family seem like a living hell that you need to escape from lest it swallow whole the last interesting shards of your personality.

Or, perhaps I shouldn't let one annoying fucking movie deter me from expanding my family. I'll let you decide for me in this (obviously non-binding) poll:

[poll id="144"]

[Editor's Note: For more reviews of the summer's biggest releases, check out the Daily Loaf Movie Review Index.]

People generally responded positively when I would tell them I was going to see Date Night. "Oh, that preview looked funny," they would say. I never thought so, but I always chalked up the sentiment to built-in goodwill toward stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Both performers are wildly popular on television, and deservedly so. Over the last five years, The Office and 30 Rock have been the gold standard against which all other TV comedies are judged. On the big screen, Carell had a string of hits (including Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine) but his star has faded somewhat lately; Fey is still on the way up after writing 2004's Mean Girls and starring opposite fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler in Baby Mama. Teaming the stars as a married couple on the run during a long night in NYC should have been a home run, which makes it extra dispiriting when Date Night goes horribly wrong.


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