Thursday, April 22, 2010

Date Night

"2007 Must-See TV > 2010 Musty Movie"

Want to know how to ruin your date night?

Go see this movie. But don't be surprised if your date walks out faster than
Cybill Shepherd did in "Taxi Driver." Boasting a superb cast and wasting them, "Date Night" is a rough assemblage of ad-libbed scenes (the writer is credited as Josh Klausner, who was no doubt at the premiere hoping to recognize one of his lines) in a comedy of the "Incredible Mess" genre—the one where no matter what the characters do, it always comes out worse. Think "The Out of Towners" (any version).

Meet the Fosters. Phil (
Steve Carell) is a tax accountant and Claire (Tina Fey) is an insurance agent. They have careers, two kids, and a marriage where the spark has been doused. One night a week, the sitter stays with the kids so they can have a "date night," but it's usually a dinner and a show, turn in early, avoid sex, and transition from quiet desperation to quiet unconsciousness. Get up. Work. Eat. Sleep. Get up. Work. Rinse and Repeat. Their "Get Up and Go"....already divorced them.

At the weekly meeting of the book-club, their friends Haley and Brad (
Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo, both criminally under-utilized) confide that they're separating, inspiring the Fosters to try to put a little more zing into their marriage, which translates to going to New York for the evening to a snooty seafood restaurant impossible to get into.

Hilarity ensues.

One wishes. Look,
Carell and Fey are incredible performers and superb writers...given time. But to ask them to go off-the-cuff and improvise through their scenes is asking a bit much. Everything feels a little half-baked and tentative, like we're not even getting the rehearsals but the blocking meeting. There is nothing here that matches what each of them can do on "The Office" and "30 Rock." Carell looks a little desperate (and plays scenes the way Steve Carell the comedian would, but not a tax preparer) and Fey's unfocused, like she's waiting for inspiration. When they connect, they do well, but there's not much they can do besides mug through car-chases and while being chased by Bad Men With Guns. They, too, are under-utilized and they're in the entire movie.

But, no one is used well. I'll see any movie with
Taraji P. Henson in it and she tries to liven up her role as a police detective, but it's an underwritten role, that's mostly filler. Also, poorly served are...fine character actors like Ray Liotta and William Fichtner. There's a half-way funny scene featuring James Franco and Mila Kunis (!!) as bickering scum-bags, but even that goes nowhere. Mark Wahlberg is also on-hand—Wahlberg can be terrific, I thought he was the best thing in "The Departed"—but there's nothing for him to do but wander through his scenes with his shirt off. Lauren Weedman and G4's Olivia Munn have cameos, but blink and they're gone.

It is a shame that the major networks felt the pressure of cable and DVD output and cancelled of all their slots for, say, "NBC Wednesday Night at the Movies," because this type of lack-luster show-case for Network Stars to "do something different" would have been far more appropriate there, rather than as a feature film release.

At least, then, you wouldn't have to pay to see it.

"Date Night" is a Cable-Watcher.


Simon said...

It was fine, I think. Not very good, but it didn't make my eyes bleed. Which is, y'know, criteria I always consider.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Okay, I have to ask...what was the last movie that made your eyes bleed?