What do you get when you put two of US televisions most popular comic heavyweights together in a film directed by one of Hollywood’s most commercially successful filmmakers? Unfortunately in the case of Date Night you get a big, fat misfire of a film wasting the proven talent of the two leads. Why? Because the director in question is Shawn Levy.
Levy has made his name in recent times for making a number of formulaic family films with starry casts which go on to make millions at the box office and often spawn sequels that nobody really wants. He was responsible for ‘Night At The Museum’ as well as having a hand in the decline of Steve Martin’s career with ‘Cheaper By The Dozen’ and the 2006 remake of ‘The Pink Panther’ and yet still big name actors seem to want to work with him.
‘Date Night’ is no exception, Tina Fey, writer and star of the hugely successful ‘30 Rock’ and Steve Carell, star of the US version of ‘The Office’ and ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’, join together as married couple Claire and Phil Foster in this action comedy.
The Foster’s comfortable existence in suburbia with two young children and weekly date nights at the local steak house is turned upside down when they decide to bring some romance back into their marriage. Phil decides to take Claire to a trendy bistro in the city where they are unable to get a table. A split second decision to take the table of a no-show couple, the Tripplehorns, places them in the middle of a plot to blackmail mob boss, Joe Miletto, played by Ray Liotta. On the run from the mob and corrupt cops they race against time to track down the real Tripplehorns and clear their names.
There is plenty of chemistry between the two leads but they are really struggling to get the best from the material and as a result a lot of the humour seems desperate and obvious. More big names including Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, Kristin Wiig and William Fitchner join the cast list for extended cameo roles but even they cannot save the film from ultimately being something of a letdown. Franco and Kunis steal the show during their scenes as the real Tripplehorns but their screen time is woefully short.
The film does have its moments but the most inspired are few and far between. It reminded me a lot of the kind of comedy films most popular in the 1980s; I found it to be reminiscent of the Elizabeth Shue vehicle ‘Adventures In Babysitting’ from 1987 in that the style and tone seem pretty similar. The idea of the middle class suburbanites having to get through a night in the grimy, rough city is certainly a theme I have seen a number of times before however ‘Date Night’ lacks the charm that made those earlier films endearing.
Shawn Levy shows no real style of his own with this film and the directing is just by the numbers joining the dots of the story to keep things moving. The film is full of continuity errors which to me imply that the director thinks the audience are idiots and won’t notice such glaring mistakes. Any film that ends with “hilarious outtakes” over the end credits just smacks of desperation to garner a few extra laughs.
The DVD presents an extended version of the film with a running time of 97 minutes compared to the 10 minute shorter theatrical release. I am unsure what has been added as I thankfully missed this one at the cinema but to be honest I can’t really see what could have been cut. The film is presented in its original screen ratio of 2.35:1 with a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack and is perfectly acceptable for a modern film on DVD.
The only extras on the DVD release are a 6 minute gag reel and a digital copy of the film. The gag reel is seriously unfunny. I really do not like the kind of special features that try to impress upon the audience how much fun it is to be on a film set, they are just so narcissistic. The digital copy is there for people that really cannot live without having a version of the film close by at all times. So if you want ‘Date Night’ on your laptop, iPhone or iPod then the option is there for you. The Blu-ray includes a number of additional extras including deleted scenes, 3 featurettes and thankfully, no Shawn Levy director’s commentary.