The last few years have seen a number of high concept films released which attempt to merge the romantic comedy and action genres. And not just romantic comedy, but marital comedy in particular. The results range from poor (Mr & Mrs Smith) to genuinely offensive (The Bounty Hunter). One by one they come careering down a conveyor belt of awful, lashed together by the spiteful Hollywood machine. Shamefully, people gobble it up, and that’s where Date Night comes along.
Directed by Shawn Levy (You’ll remember him as the director of the Night At The Museum franchise and… The Pink Panther 2), Date Night thrusts together two of the funniest actors working right now, in Tina Fey (of 30 Rock fame) and Steve Carell (The 40 Year-Old Virgin, The American Office). Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all it does.
Playing the roles of Claire and Phil Foster, Fey and Carrell are a believable married couple caught up in a bit of a minor rut. They go on an impulsive jaunt into the city and claim another couple’s reservation at a swanky restaurant. Misrepresenting themselves lands them in a bit of bother with two goons (Jimmi Simpson and Common) and that’s about an appropriate time to bring in the action part of the film.
A handful of cameos save the film from nosediving entirely into the ground. Mark Wahlberg shows up as a shirtless amateur detective and garners a few laughs. James Franco and Mila Kunis display a brief glimpse of promise -but after moving the story forward a touch, they disappear entirely. Ray Liotta cashes a quick cheque and Kristen Wiig makes an appearance for all of five minutes.
Taking into account the considerable talent of the two leads, you’d really expect this to be a lot better. And it would seem that that’s what the film’s creators were hoping for too. The script definitely feels like it’s lacking something -for a romantic comedy, it’s certainly bereft of jokes. You can’t help but feel that Date Night is really relying solely on the chemistry between the two leads to carry it across the finish line. This comes at quite a cost, because the film has some excellent casting, and what’s more, most of the actors are actually funny. It’s just a shame that they weren’t allowed to be here.