"Date Night" takes the viewer on a spiritual journey through hope, boredom, anger and finally sorrow at seeing such a talented and entertaining cast -- to say nothing of an hour and a half -- wasted.
Tina Fey and Steve Carell are Claire and Phil Foster, a happily married couple with two kids who find themselves stuck in a rut in suburban New Jersey. After watching two of their best friends embrace divorce, the Fosters resolve to go into the big city for a special night out. What follows is a case of mistaken identity that finds the Fosters caught up in a mess of dirty cops, mobsters, a DA with some out-there sexual tastes, a couple of stoners and an ex-Black Ops specialist.
This is familiar territory, done to varying degrees of success over the years, and with a supporting cast that includes James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig and Mark Wahlberg, this should've been a breezy 88 minutes. Instead, it's a death march of tedium.
Director Shawn Levy, who has helmed both nights "At the Museum," as well as "Cheaper by the Dozen" and several others, has a proven track record of making bad films that make lots of money. Levy specializes in broad, wacky, feel-good family comedy. But "Date Night," as thin and light as it is, is a film about adults in adult situations: car chases, shoot-outs, strip clubs and being halfheartedly invited to a four-way. It's a bad combination.
About halfway through the film, just as you've begun checking your watch, the Fosters steal/borrow an Audi A-8 from Wahlberg. Soon the couple starts bickering, causing Phil to pull the car over -- and what little momentum the film had right along with it. You can feel the whole thing grind to a painful halt. When they've had their tender reconciliation, Phil puts the car in gear, and suddenly, for no apparent, can no longer handle its ferocious power.
What follows is an interminable car chase that features the obligatory spinning cars, the black cab driver with the giant bugged-out eyes screaming and making jokes about crazy white people and -- wait for it -- a plunge into the East River.
And not that one looks for great character development in such a film -- even when done well -- but the Fosters vacillate from milquetoast to savvy to dumb to snarky to... whatever suits the moment. This is not to fault the performances of Fey and Carell -- they're doing the best they can with material at hand. But they can be criticized for their judgment in making this film.
If you're just jonesing for a taste of the comic stylings of Carell and Fey, check your DVR -- with any luck you'll still have some "30 Rock" or "The Office" in there.