Why are Steve Carell and Tina Fey wasting their time, and ours, by appearing in the miserable comedy “Date Night”? Replenishing their bank accounts, I suppose, but still – there must be better movie material out there for such sharp performers. It used to be that television was the fallback position for movie actors, most of whom only deigned to appear on the tube when they were over the hill. Nowadays, TV fare, especially dramas and (some) comedies – like Carell’s “The Office” or Fey’s “30 Rock,” not to mention “Saturday Night Live” – are usually smarter and edgier than their movie counterparts.
In “Date Night,” Fey and Carell play a bored suburban married couple who decide to spice things up by going out for a fancy New York dinner. They end up enmeshed in a shoot’em-up scenario that is dumb even by the usual dumb Hollywood standards. Actors like James Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Taraji P. Henson, and Mark Wahlberg, whose role requires him to go shirtless throughout, show up to no avail. Fey and Carell spend a lot of screen time flustered, especially during the film’s climactic car chase in downtown Manhattan, which also features an African-American cabby who is required to act like a popeyed racial caricature.
Fey, in particular, seems uncomfortable with the shenanigans. If this film, and “Baby Mama” and “The Invention of Lying,” are any indication, maybe she isn’t cut out for the movies after all. Or, more likely, she just doesn’t care enough about giving her best to movies. But Hollywood comedies desperately need her wicked asperity. Is she maybe holding out until Sarah Palin makes a run for president? Grade: D (Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence, and a drug reference.)
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