I so wanted to like the new comedy "Date Night," pairing one of THE funniest women in America (Tina Fey) with one of the THE funniest men in America (Steve Carell). I was all set to laugh. Heartily. But this is one of those movies where you really HAVE seen all the good gags and heard all the good lines in the trailers and previews: "Honey, get up: NOW!" "Kill shot!" "I don't want the kids to stay with your mother—she's awful!"
The premise is solid: a "boring" New Jersey couple go out for an extra special date night and--due to a case of mistaken identity--get entangled in New York's criminal underground. Needless to say, their date night IS extra special. How could anything possibly go wrong or unfunny with Fey and Carell? Editing. Big editing problems. Pacing. Big pacing problems. Writing. Big writing problems. Shall I go on? Fey and Carell's comedic acting is fine (as is a nice turn by a blank-faced and shirtless Mark Wahlberg—the shirtlessness is important to the plot, trust me), but the chemistry between them is just a tad lackluster. Editing and pace: This movie needed to be way faster-paced and snappy, at least after Act One. It goes at a snail's pace that never really alters except for a rather hilarious chase scene that involves a sportscar and a taxi stuck to each other. Writing: could have been much sharper with more jokes. Music: the music is NOT fun and sounds like it goes with a serious Lifetime Movie Network biopic. It's hard to believe this flick's multiple problems are the fault of director Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum 2").
Every so often, the movie gels, like the quiet scene in the midst of mortal danger, when wife and hubby pull off to the side of the road (in their stolen getaway car) to have a marital dispute about the little things that aren't so little. I love this because it says that, yes, how this relationship fares IS the most important thing in the world. (How every marital relationship fares is the most important thing in the world, or as JP2G says: "The future of civilization depends on what she will be for him and what he will be for her.") The dialogue at this point is quite sober, and reminds me of the honest, realistic dialogue between husband and wife (about the "little things") in the overlooked recent movie, "Motherhood," starring Uma Thurman.
The movie lands on a truly sweet and specific (concrete proof of true love) note.
But now. PG-13. Really? It's rated PG-13 for "sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference." One of the last scenes is a prolonged and, again, unfunny trip to a strip joint/brothel. Sigh. True, this kind of stuff is all over TV (which of course doesn't make it "right") but movies are bigger, "paid for," public, you know—the whole experience is just different. Do we really need to see MORE of stripper culture? This ploy just felt desperate.
I find the newish write-ups for the movie rating system of WHY the thing is rated what it is to be very helpful. And in this case, accurate: "crude content throughout." I wish I had a clicker (or plenary indulgence) for every tired use of the "p" and "v" word. Hey, this couple from New Jersey really IS boring! Sex is not "dirty," and it can be funny, but to expect audiences to giggle childishly at the repeated mention of "unmentionable" body parts, is, well, childish.
What should have been a rollicking good time never quite frolics. Even the bloopers at the end don't bloop. "Date Night" is one for your "skip list," unless you enjoy meh.
--One very funny joke that works is how shocked everyone is (EVERYONE) that Fey and Carell's characters took someone else's dinner reservation. (This IS New York, remember.)
--"This gun sucks!" (another good line in context)