Teaming up Tina Fey and Steve Carell, stars of 30 Rock and The Office, is a tantalizing prospect for fans of NBC's back-to-back Thursday night sitcoms. But their big-screen collaboration, the action comedy Date Night, yields surprisingly little of the comic synergy one would expect from such a potent one-two punch.
In fact, it probably never could have at least not with director Shawn Levy (The Pink Panther, Night at the Museum) overseeing the action. Soon after Fey and Carell emerge on-screen, playing a suburban married couple whose relationship has devolved into a dull domestic routine, the mistake of their pairing becomes evident. Seeing them together serves only to heighten our recall of their TV work, and we can't help but pine for them as Liz Lemon and Michael Scott. But in Date Night, they are stubbornly moored to their portrayals of Phil and Claire Foster, two entirely normal people who get along perfectly well, but who've grown a little bored with their daily lives.
Normal, of course, isn't ever very funny (if it were, Mormons would rule the stand-up circuit). As such, the humor in Date Night is supposed to emanate from the extraordinary circumstances with which the Fosters are faced (a case of mistaken identity makes them the target of corrupt cops and the centerpiece of a criminal conspiracy), the desperate lengths they go to get out of trouble, and the interesting personalities they meet along the way. None of which, unfortunately, director Levy or screenwriter Josh Klausner are equipped to provide. As a result, two very funny actors are left to twist in the wind for nearly 90 minutes.
What the film cries out for most is a quality supporting player, a Dwight Schrute or a Tracy Jordan to enliven the action and give stars Fey and Carell something anything to play against, but no one in Date Night proves up to the task. Not the mirthless, one-dimensional goons tailing the Fosters. Not the mobster played by Ray Liotta, who looks more tired of his novelty Goodfellas shtick than we are. And most certainly not Mark Wahlberg, whose comic routine in Date Night involves his face playing straight man to his pectorals.
The action is briefly energized by James Franco and Mila Kunis, appearing together in a hilarious surprise cameo (oops!) as a feuding miscreant couple. Their comic spark instantly eclipses that of Fey and Carell, yielding more laughs in a two-minute span than the two stars are able to conjure throughout the entirety of the film. Unfortunately for us, they leave Date Night almost as quickly as they arrive, taking their spark with them.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.