Film review – Date Night (2010)

Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell)

The premise of Date Night is one of a classic case of mistaken identity where Phil and Claire Foster, a dull but likable middle-aged and middle-class married couple, are suddenly on the run after being confused for another couple who were attempting to blackmail the mob. However, while this scenario sounds like it may take a few cues from the classic string of wrong-person comedic thrillers by Alfred Hitchcock, Date Night is fairly light on plot and simply a showcase for two of the funniest people working in show business today. The idea of casting Steve Carell and Tina Fey as the Fosters, whose dreary life becomes unexpectedly spiced up, is brilliant but any assumptions that their presence alone will make Date Night work are unfortunately unfounded.

Date Night should have been a hilarious film and the outtakes over the end credits give some idea of just how funny Carell and Fey can be when they are simply trading banter with one another. The film certainly does have moments where this chemistry is captured and a reoccurring character played by Mark Wahlberg certainly livens up several scenes too. The rare quieter moments between Carell and Fey that are used to affectionately portray a loving married couple whose lives have become a bit of a drudge are also handled nicely and actually evoke a degree of pathos. But overall Date Night feels too much like a lame married couple version of Adventures in Babysitting with its mild humour and tensionless action.

Date Night is a missed opportunity and Carell and Fey certainly deserve better material. Not only is the film mostly rather bland but it is also poorly made with ugly digital cinematography and substandard editing that often fails to even adequately create match-on-action transitions. It was also disappointing to see the film eventual fail so badly in terms of its attitude towards gender roles. For much of the film both the Fosters are on fairly equal terms with each other but by the time the film ends Claire is having to dress like a prostitute while Phil is left to come up with the final big plan that he inexplicably keeps to himself. Stay home and watch Carell in the US version of The Office and Fey in 30 Rock instead as for the most part Date Night doesn’t deliver.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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