DIR: Shawn Levy • WRI: Josh Klausner • PRO: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty • DOP: Dean Semler • ED: Dean Zimmerman • DES: David Gropman • CAST: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg
Is this really the best Hollywood has to offer its current hottest male and female TV comic actors? Steve Carell and Tina Fey are currently pulling in millions of viewers and guaranteed laughs on American prime-time television with their hugely successful Emmy-laden comedies The Office and 30 Rock. So, here they are together starring in a film for the first time in Date Night. You can picture the pitch – ‘So Steve and Tina together; brilliant, huh…well, they’re a married couple set in their routine ways. How about that. They get caught up in a case of mistaken identity and are on the run from some baddies. They get in a boat! They smash up cars!! We could even get them pole dancing!!! In the end they realise their lives are perfect just the way they were. Hey. What a trip. It’s gotta be winner!’
Cue high fives all round…
Well the ‘brilliant’ idea to pair Carell and Fey does bring some comic style to the proceedings, and their performances are backed up with some decent cameos by Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis and Ray Liotta – doing a James ‘Jimmy’ Conway, which again shows us what a pity we don’t see more of him in decent roles. Apart from that Date Night is no more than a series of bad comic set ups and anaesthetic-type humour. The problem here is with the script. Written by Josh Klausner, who is best known for providing additional screenplay material for Shrek the Third, the script seems to have been the product of a graduate scriptwriter being held at gunpoint and told to come up with something funny in 10 minutes. 2 or 3 scenarios are strung together and our protagonists have to somehow get themselves out of them – sadly, with less than hilarious results.
It’s a shame that so many comedies these days seem manufactured to suit the whims of marketing buffoons, who have no sense themselves of what is funny, driven by commercial interests to green-light films that lack any semblance of originality in the pursuit of box-office takings. Instead Hollywood churns out star vehicles based on banal concepts, flesh them out with manufactured scripts and slaps itself on the back in the knowledge that a safe bet will bring in the money. Date Night is indeed a safe bet.