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article imageOp-Ed: Carell, Fey bring comedy to relationship ennui in Date Night Special

By David Silverberg     Apr 8, 2010 in Entertainment
NBC comedy stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey bring their quirky sense of humour to Date Night, a fun film skewering routine marriages and commitment issues. Just don't expect a riveting plot.
When 20th Century Fox execs decided to pair Carell (of The Office fame) and Fey (30 Rock) for the film Date Night, in theatres April 9, they must've known they would strike comedy gold. The two NBC veterans are already enjoying back-to-back success on Thursday night with their respective TV shows, and their approaches to humour complement each other.
Date Night highlights that comedic relationship, even as it pinpoints all the anxieties married couples face. Phil (Carell) and Claire Foster (Fey) are a sensible, loving couple who go through each day with the same routine. Early breakfast, work, play with the kids, in bed by 11 p.m. Their sex life is about as adventerous as a manilla envelope and they have to convince each other to summon the energy to go on a "date night."
When the Fosters learn about a friend's marriage disintegrating, they take drastic action: Phil brings Claire to Manhattan to the city's hottest new restaurant, where soup costs $30. But at this swanky resto, a case of mistaken identity suddenly throws the Fosters into a horrific adventure filled with crime bosses, dirty cops and car chases.
Right from the beginning, we're treated to sharp humour from the comedic couple. When the Fosters first go on a date night, they crack jokes about the couple they spot, lip-synching their conversation. It would be remiss of this reviewer to give away some of those hilarious one-liners.
By one-third into the film, it's obvious Fey and Carell enjoy their budding on-screen relationship. They riff off each other with ease, each barb seemingly flowing into the next. Considering how much Carell tends to improv on The Office, it wouldn't surprise anyone to learn that the two actors just used the script as direction to allow their dialogue to freestyle naturally.
There's a randomness to both Fey's and Carell's sense of humour, and they critique each other as naturally as if they were truly married. It's as if they've been onscreen together for eons.
Look out for a car chase scene where Fey and Carell suddenly dive into an argument over their marital responsibilities. It's a poignant moment, applicable to anyone invested in a relationship, and it takes a nice break from the gun-toting action and jokey zingers.
Director/writer Shawn Levy is no stranger to lambasting marriages. He previously directed Ashton Kuchter's Just Married and Cheaper by The Dozen, starring Steve Martin. He knows how to best take advantage of his comedy stars, and in Date Night he lets Carell do his thing. He gives him a solid script and then Carell does his best Michael Scott-as-an-grownup impression, bringing us some of the humour The Office fans love while adding some more mature nuances to this performance.
The supporting cast does a nice job in bringing some layers to the film. Mark Wahlberg plays a security expert helping the Fosters, but his tough-guy role is made all the more hilarious because he only appears shirtless. Phil is quietly fuming as Claire flirts with the stud, and even just a few great dialogue exchanges between the couple and Marky Mark give those scenes added flair.
The cast is rounded out by some excellent male leads from film past, such as Ray Liotta, James Franco, Common and Mark Ruffalo. It would've been great to see more Ruffalo and Franco, but their roles were minuscule.
Carell  Fey and Mark Wahlberg star in Date Night  in theatres April 9
Carell, Fey and Mark Wahlberg star in Date Night, in theatres April 9
Courtesy 20th Century Fox
If there's any failing with Date Night, it's the plot. Without giving away too much, the storyline wears thin halfway through the film, and it actually gets confusing (a strange effect for an action-comedy). It seems as if the filmmaker wasn't sure who should be the star of Date Night - the Fosters or the criminal storyline. Sure, there has to be some conflict to spark change within the married duo, but at times the plot felt clunky and poorly paced.
But you won't go to see Date Night for masterful storytelling. You'll see Date Night for the anticipated pairing of Carell and Fey, two comedy talents whose onscreen marriage should continue for years.
Rating: four stars (out of five)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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