I’ve been thinking about the recent comedies that have really made a dent in pop culture. Movies like ANCHORMAN, SUPERBAD and THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN have the common thread of incredibly funny outtakes. Do not overlook these gems on DVD, they are hilarious. And they are hilarious because the people involved understand comedy and their directors often give them free reign to improvise and basically make up the money lines as they go. With the new movie DATE NIGHT, director Shawn Levy looks as though he did the same, riding the wave of two great comic actors, Steve Carell and Tina Fey (themselves riding the waves of their successful NBC TV shows), to a genuinely funny comedy about a married couple fighting off marital complacency. The element that makes this comedy different than the ones listed, however, is the lack of raunchy humor which keeps the rating at PG-13 and makes it more accessible to a larger audience. And the outtakes that are shown during the closing credits indicate that maybe even the movie could have been funnier had that consideration for family audiences been kicked to the curb. ‘Cause I guarantee you Tina Fey had some dirty, dirty ideas. I love you, Tina.
Steve Carell and the lovely Goddess Tina play Phil and Claire Foster, who do what few families do and that’s stick to a regimented date night routine to allow themselves alone time away from the kids. They seem to fall into a pattern, however, and in order to break the pattern, they decide to trek to New York City, go to a trendy restaurant, and take another couple’s reservation to get a seat at said restaurant. As you have seen from the previews, the mistaken identity of the reservation leads to hired killers chasing them in a series of car chases, foot races and just generally a great deal of running around New York looking for that all too convenient final way out. As luck would have it, the way out of their jam comes in the form of a shirtless Mark Wahlberg (playing up his old Marky Mark persona), who provides them with the information and help to traverse a plotline that involves ruthless mobster Ray Liotta and perverted political official William Fichtner and hunting henchmen Common and Jimmi Armstrong, all the while running and screaming through the city with winning quips delivered throughout, and only the occasional heartfelt monologue on what is truly wrong with their marriage.
Steve and Tina deliver on their comic lines throughout, but that’s really no surprise. What is surprising is the reserve with which they carry on throughout the film. There is structure and guidance, not simply a free for all, and that keeps everyone tied to the story and not simply riffing like a jazz session. When Mark Wahlberg comes into the mix, he goes Matthew McConaughey-shirtless to get some good laughs, to include some good Hebrew dialogue (how many movies can say that) and the other supporting characters are given some funny and essential parts as well, most surprisingly James Franco, who with Mila Kunis play the reservation theft victims and are given time to shine on their own. Saturday Night Live alum Kristen Wiig also shows up to give NBC more comedy branding, but the two carrying the movie are of course Tina Fey and Steve, and the fans of their respective shows will not be disappointed. But again, don’t forget to stay behind after the credits to catch all the outtakes for the real laughs you don’t want to miss.