Here’s proof that Tina Fey and Steve Carell could squeeze laughs out of a phone book. Josh Klausner’s script for Date Night, in which they play Phil and Claire Foster, a New Jersey couple trying to liven up their dull marriage with a glam date in the Big Apple, rivals the Yellow Pages for dry and utilitarian. And yet their teamwork turns it into comic bliss.
Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) tosses in a museum of clichés, from gun battles to car chases. There’s even an embarrassing strip-club sequence in which both stars get to bump and grind. And I haven’t even mentioned the star cameos: Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo as soon-to-be divorcees from New Jersey; James Franco and Mila Kunis as the couple the Fosters impersonate to steal their reservation at a chic Tribeca restaurant; and Common and Jimmi Simpson as the hoods who want them dead. Best of all is Mark Wahlberg in a nifty bit of self-satire as a shirtless weapons expert. Still, if you’re thinking all the star shine sounds like padding, you’d be right.
Date Night, which superficially resembles Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, is too soft to go for the turbulence roiling under this tamped-down marriage. But watching 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon and The Office‘s Michael Scott spark each other is enough. Stay for the outtakes — they’re improv delights, suggesting the movie that might have been if they had just left it all to Carell and Fey.