I’m slightly in awe of Tina Fey at the moment, having only recently started watching 30 Rock. As the creator of one of the best US sitcoms of all time (in my freshly formed and wildly distorted opinion) she’s my new comedy pin-up. And Steve Carrel is relentlessly likeable despite taking part in a seemingly endless run of dud comedies including Get Smart and Evan Almighty, which make The 40 Year Old Virgin look like Oscar material. So when this pair teamed up for Date Night, I was convinced that the result could be put down by some funny, disparaging analogy you may have read in a film review before now. I was wrong.
Date Night follows Carrel and Fey as they take their family-consumed couple out for a night on the town in New York. When a swanky eatery won’t supply them with a table, they take a reservation that is not theirs and end up being mistaken for a couple of blackmailers who are targeted by organised crime lords and the authorities. Cue a bit of action, comedy and marital bond-strengthening. That’s not a recipe that sounds too tasty to me, but admittedly the first slow 20 minutes is worth sitting through for some decent second and third act fun. The sentimentality is kept to a minimum, and both actors are clearly having a good time even if they are not really flexing their comedic brain-muscles.
Cameos litter Date Night, with Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, rapper Common, Mark Ruffalo, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s J.B. Smoove and even black eyed pea Will i Am getting a few minutes onscreen. Some make a bigger impact than others, but famous face spotting is always fun. The jokes are hit and miss, but some of the hits are lol-worthy, and the whole package is held together by the dual leads who can tweak mediocre lines with excellent delivery.
Date Night is an above-average rom-com, and although that isn’t much of an accolade, it is definitely better than most of the throat-shreddingly, eyelid-slicingly, bum-clenchingly bad stuff that Katherine Heigl gets herself into.