Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

April 9, 2010

Dinner for schmucks

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 12:35 am

April 09, 2010

Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg

Director: Shawn Levy

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two of the funniest stars on American television, and their respective sitcoms — The Office and 30 Rock — are easily the most popular primetime properties. They’ve been teamed up in this week’s Date Night, a light-hearted but formulaic rom-com that might have benefited from sharper writing.

The pair stars as a boring suburban New Jersey couple coping with the hard work of raising two young children while trying to maintain their careers. Their only respite is a relatively unexciting weekly dinner eating potato skins at a local steakhouse, where they share a few laughs trying to guess what’s going on in the minds of fellow diners.

One evening they decide to head out to the city and pamper themselves with an expensive seafood meal at a fancy new restaurant, where they impulsively grab another couple’s reservation when they can’t land a table for themselves. Predictably, the stage is set for a mistaken-identity plot in which our protagonists find themselves on the run from a New York crime boss.

Of course you know where all this is going — there’s a bullet-dodging misadventure in a Central Park motorboat, a ridiculous car chase through Manhattan, and an embarrassing pole dance in a seedy strip club.

None of these routine set pieces are as much fun as the banter between Carell and Fey, or their laugh-out-loud encounter with a shirtless Mark Wahlberg playing a hi-tech security expert. These scenes, however, are few and far between. Even at roughly 90 minutes, the writers can’t come up with enough smart jokes that might turn this film into a must-watch.

In the end it’s up to the two leads, who strike up a comfortable chemistry, to make the most of this tired premise. And to be fair, they succeed to some extent. Entirely convincing as a pair of Regular Joes who’re just as surprised as we are to find themselves at the centre of this mess, Carell and Fey turn Date Nightinto an easy enough evening out at the movies.

I’m going with a generous three out of five for Date Night. If you seek comfort in the familiar, this film is for you. Steve Carell and Tina Fey however, deserve better.

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