‘Date Night’ wastes some very funny actors

By Jacob Ellenhorn, Staff Writer

Date Night, the much hyped movie, manages the extraordinary feat of wasting the comedic talents of Steve Carrel and Tina Fey.  While they have great chemistry, the movie’s plotline proves to be too flimsy to showcase it, or to make this either a blockbuster romantic comedy or thriller — both of which it aspired to be. Along with Mark Wahlberg in a cameo appearance, the two stars deserve kudos for applying superhuman efforts to drag out the funny in Date Night.  But the movie simply doesn’t deliver the kind of side-splitting hilarity audiences expected.

As Claire and Phil Foster, Fey and Carrell play an ordinary but bored married couple who are mistakenly targeted by both mobsters and cops. They are extremely likable and married couples would find it easy to relate to them.  They are young, but not too young.  They are attractive, but not too attractive.  They even have faults, but not egregious faults that would take years of therapy to address. Claire and Phil are just a regular suburban couple who think they are boring and believe that dinner in Manhattan will ease them out of their rut. But their escape becomes hardly the kind of urban renewal the Fosters have hoped for in their marriage.

Carrel’s and Fey’s ability to play off each other is highlighted in a hilarious scene where the comedic duo lampoon vogue Manhattan urbanites with precise attention to their bizarre fashion sense and rude nature. If only the director, Sean Levy, had continued down the path of relevant social satire, Date Night would have been a rare gem. But there are few such scenes and the transitions between the barely funny scenes and the action sequences are too disjointed to endure.

Instead, the movie progresses painfully and slowly, the Big City turns predictably Hitchcockian, and soon Claire and Phil Foster have us questioning whether simple boredom in their marriage should doom us to watch the rest of the movie. With no other choice, we are forced to continue watching what turns out to be the best part of the film.  Mark Wahlberg (best known for his stint as Markie Mark of the nineties boy band, New Kids on the Block) plays an ex-military playboy who helps the Fosters out of their predicament.  Out of nowhere, he begins speaking perfectly accented Sabra-style Hebrew to “Netanya,’’ his girlfriend. His Hebrew was so authentic that I googled whether  Wahlberg actually speaks Hebrew. It turns out that Wahlberg isn’t even Jewish.

While Date Night is mostly an undistinguished addition to the “escape from suburbia to the dangerous Big City” genre, it does explore (in barely a minute) two people who are struggling in their marriage.  Somewhere in between the predictable car chases and run-ins with mobsters, Date Night writer Josh Klausner ambushes moviegoers with some serious relationship stuff.

Granted, my teen perspective may not allow me to appreciate the realities of being a married man.  It just seems that trying to spice up a dull relationship with one dinner in a chichi restaurant is like trying to cure cancer with a band-aid. Their relationship is like a glass of wine that is neither half full nor half empty.  If they would only step back and realize that New Jersey, home to Snookie and those crazy table flipping housewives, can be just as exciting as New York, then maybe just maybe, Claire and Phil could sip some wine from that glass and realize that their life is full of wonder.

In the end, Date Night is a light-hearted  romantic comedy starring two extremely strong comedic actors, yet it fizzles.  If I am going to spend my parents’ money on a movie with America’s two leading comedic actors, I expect comical gluttony.  Instead, this time I got a farcical breadstick.