Dragged down by the daily grind, suburbanites Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) try to put the spark back in their marriage by visiting a trendy Manhattan bistro. They get more than they bargained for when a case of mistaken identity hurtles them into an incredible adventure involving corrupt cops, a mob boss and a crazed cab driver. (from MovieWeb.com)
In a year that hasn't really been delivering the romantic comedy goods too well, director Shawn Levy - who helmed both Night at the Museum movies - steps in to try to provide audiences with something a little different in the form of Date Night. His latest project is a far cry from the colorful, historical-figure-laced family comedies that precede it, but Date Night definitely seems to be aiming high in attempting to be a little bit of everything for everyone. It's a pop film all-around but is fashioned mostly for married couples looking for a night out... much like the movie's central duo.
Date Night boldly features two of TV's most currently popular comedians - Steve Carell, of The Office fame and Tina Fey, of 30 Rock and, previously, SNL. It's a pairing that looks good on posters and sounds brilliant on paper, but doesn't quite generate all the sparks one might expect from such a team. However, both actors work pretty well together to create a sort of everyday John and Jane Smith who are just trying to get a decent night out (sans kids) to themselves. The end result? Comedic-laced action mayhem... for adults. Much of the humor is surrounded by crude comments and jokes, as well as profanity, and it really makes the film only fashionable for married couples with stomachs for such content. Of course, it isn't nearly as bad as that might sound, however, it's hardly a film you'd want your teenager to sit through. The story centers around Phil and Claire Foster who are stuck in the mundane monotony of 9 to 5 jobs and a stale marriage, fearing they may have lost the same spark that married friends of theirs have. The news of their friends' divorce impresses upon them enough to try to get a little of that passion back in their own lives, and the film really starts there.
Much of today's comedy seems to be based on bedroom humor, sadly, and Levy takes that route in Date Night, despite proving that you don't have to be crude to be funny in his previous films. It's a shame too, because the heart of Date Night is a well-intentioned one - encouraging couples to fight for their marriages. However, the fault lies within the execution. And in the attempts to keep the film within the boundaries of PG-13 without tipping the scales, most language is restrained (despite Carell getting in an unexpected use of the "F" word), while many jokes resort to the Fosters awkwardly making "penis" and "vagina" references or wisecracks, to attempt to reinforce the fact they're fish out of water in the violent and crude New York City. Still, the very worst moment of the film is when the two discover the secret plot they've become wrapped up in and find themselves in a strip club where they have to provocatively dance for a perverted man that wants to see both of them dance seductively. While all played for comedy, we see Fey and Carell dry humping the floor or awkwardly grinding with each other to try to win a chance to speak to the guy. Some of it is awkward enough to be amusing, but in the end, it's just that - awkward, and it's nothing you'll want to sit through if you're hoping for a family movie. The film's end result is an admirable one, but it's the getting to that point that is a rather bumpy ride.
But Levy does do a pretty good job mixing comedy, romance, and action together. There's a pretty decent car chase that is unlike what you'd normally find in such a film. While it's unlikely you'd see a car chase like that on a late Friday night on the bustling streets of New York City (although, it is supposed to be pretty late when this is happening), it's one of the more fun and funny moments that illustrate what Date Night can do right on occasion. In Night at the Museum 2, Levy allowed some of the comedic actors to go on a tangent, which lead to some slightly overlong but still very funny exchanges (like between Hank Azaria and Ben Stiller or Stiller and Jonah Hill). Unfortunately, he does the same here, but with much less success. When another couple breaks out into a verbal sparring (which of course turns to spilling too much info about their sex life) right in front of the Fosters, it's not as funny as Levy probably expects us to think and just becomes - yet again - awkward (and not a "good" awkward or even awkward in the same vein as Carell's Office often gets). It's sequences like these that good editing could have been exercised to strengthen the film. In addition, there are some cameos from recognizable faces - the best being Mark Wahlberg as a hunky former client of Claire's who ends up helping them throughout the mishaps of the evening. The worst, unfortunately, is Ray Liotta as a thinly drawn cookie-cutter bad guy. Some of his scenes seem like they were cut down too much (including a seemingly pointless meeting between him and a female cop when we're introduced to him), and his character name ends up getting more screen time than he does. While Liotta is more effective than a more comedic choice for a villain, he feels wasted and unneeded in Date Night.
It's a shame, too, that Levy chose to go the vulgar route for Date Night. While the film comedically takes too long to get started, it does offer some decent laughs with a good message to try to keep the fire alive in marriages and learn to work together through the committed partnership of marriage. This theme works really well, it's just the dressing that it was given that doesn't. It's just unfortunate because you ultimately want to like the Fosters (and you do...), but the style of comedy that's executed here that doesn't seem like the best option. And the film's leads aren't entirely to blame for it either.
Fans of Fey and Carell will probably be most interested in this film, and if they already religiously watch either or both of their popular TV shows, than the content of Date Night probably won't be very shocking. Still, that doesn't change the fact that the film is more crude than it needs to (or should) be, and this will certainly limit its audience. And while it still is leaps and bounds better than the abysmal Bounty Hunter that released earlier this month (thanks to the talents of this film's leads, mostly), Date Night doesn't get by without its fair share of issues, making it a difficult film to recommend. (But if you DO see the movie anyway, stay till after all of the end credits for additional funny outtakes.)- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 4/14/10)
For the Summer 2010 Blu-Ray release of Shawn Levy's Date Night, the HD edition offers movie watchers the theatrical version of the film as well as an optional "Extended Edition." For the extended version, Levy adds 13 minutes back into the film - mostly deleted moments and dialog that didn't make it into the final film. For the most part, the deleted footage doesn't add a whole lot to the movie. It does flesh out some of the tensions between Claire and Phil that were only touched on slightly in the theatrical version, but none of it is very crucial. Most notably, the Extended Version includes an additional "F" word towards the beginning of the movie. When Phil is trying to console Brad that his wife is probably as upset about their split as he is, the scene quickly cuts to Brad's wife's face (played by Kristen Wiig) saying "Best f---ing decision I ever made." It's included for shock value, but it's entirely unnecessary and, quite frankly, rather stupid. We then see this alternate dialog piece AGAIN during an even further extended version of these scenes in the "Extended Scenes" featurette. Also, when we see "Taste" arguing with "Whip-It," in the theatrical version, Taste complains that when it comes to "the back door" - in regards to sex - "you can forget about it." In the Extended Version, he comes right out and says "anal" and adds "You can forget about anal!" It's awkward and over-the-line to say the least. Other than that, there isn't much else different in the Extended Version, and it certainly doesn't improve on the film. Sadly, the digital copy disc that accompanies the Blu-Ray disc only offers a download of the Extended Version.
Deleted Scenes (5:47) - The Deleted Scenes are actually worth a watch. The first is an extended gag where Phil tries to parallel park Holbrooke's Audi on the streets of New York. It's great, especially if anyone is familiar with trying to park on the NYC streets. It's a bit of a long sequence, so I can understand why it had to be cut, but it is pretty funny. Next is a brief scene of Phil and Claire on a normal pre-NYC date night where Phil is refusing to listen to their GPS and therefore miss the movie they were trying to get to on time. The third is a very brief moment that shows Holbrooke explaining the antique gun in his apartment and expresses his love for history. Lastly, we see a tender moment as Phil and Claire wander the streets of New York and they come upon a secluded back street where they find their very first apartment and briefly reminisce about their early days of marriage. All were minor scenes, but are nice inclusions on the DVD. I actually would have probably liked to have seen some of these (if not all of these) make it into the Extended Version.
Alt City (1:48) - This featurette is just a quick montage of alternate takes and ad libs. It features mostly Claire asking strip club girls if they have any outfits bigger for her figure, and then the rest of the takes are from when Claire and Phil return to Claw as artistic yuppies. Oddly enough, almost all of the Claw takes are used in the credits of the film, yet are still included here.
Extended Scenes (10:25) - Now, while less than two minutes for the "Alt City" featurette may seem near pointless, the real pointless feature here are the "Extended Scenes." We see the entire Phil/Brad and Claire/Hailey chat about the divorce that's in the Extended Version of the film (with the "F" word included) with literally just a few words added in to make the scene even longer. It's literally the third version of this interaction and it comes off more like Levy has incredible indecision, when it came to editing these scenes, than anything else. On top of that, there's the entire sequence where Claire and Phil are freaking out in Time Square and then call home to check on their kids, which seems exactly like the version in the Extended cut. I couldn't tell any difference at all. The last two extended scenes are also only slightly longer but much more fun. We see Claire trying to pitch a million dollar home to a married couple, but in this take, she pats the pregnant wife's belly before realizing she shouldn't have. It's wonderfully awkward and shouldn't have been cut. The next scene shows Claire asking Holbrooke for money and it's just another great moment for Phil to feel awkward about Claire and Holbrooke's "chemistry."
Directing 301 (21:48) - If you're a fan at all of filmmaking, this is the featurette to watch. This is a day (or, more accurately, a night) in the shoot of Date Night, from the moment Shawn Levy arrived on set to the moment they wrapped shooting that night. It's pretty fun and it gives an abridged look at the process for that day. The featurette introduces us to a lot of the film's crew, what they do, and how they get the job done shooting on location in New York City. We also see some behind-the-scenes filming outside of Holbrooke's place, the Audi peeling out of the apartment, and the deleted scene where Claire and Phil stumble upon their first apartment.
Disaster Dates (4:43) - This little featurette showcases every major cast member reflecting on their worst dating experiences. There's some crude examples and innuendo, but the most explicit story is from rapper Will.i.am who describes having a girl's grandfather walk in on him and his date while they were in bed together. Way too much info, dude...
Directing Off Camera (3:46) - In "Directing Off Camera," Shawn Levy introduces the segment by explaining that he often yells for actors to do something or try something out on camera for specific takes. We then see him calling out orders for Tina Fey while pretending to drive and Tina and Steve pole dancing at the strip club.
Steve and Tina Screen Tests (3:10) - Director Shawn Levy enthusiastically introduces this neat little tidbit that shows Steve Carell and Tina Fey modeling different wardrobes and looks for the film even before they began filming it (including her small strip club corset outfit). The highlight of this brief montage is the revelation that the movie poster imaging of the couple looking disheveled was actually shot during these screen tests before production launched.
Gag Reel (5:49) - Due to the comedic entourage that makes up the cast of Date Night, a gag reel isn't at all suprising to be found included here. Although there's a good assortment of cut goofs, I'm actually surprised the reel wasn't even longer. There are a few good chuckles in the bunch here, but there's also the expected profanity that comes with actors making mistakes, except Levy & Co. didn't go ahead and bleep or silence the swearing. There are also a couple "F" words (from Carell and Liotta) and blasphemy (from Fey) that made it into the montage of clips here, unfortunately. Overall, it's not one of the funnier outtakes reels and the profanity doesn't help it. I'm curious as to why some gag reels get censored and others don't. I really didn't need to hear Carell shout "F--- me!" when messing up a take.
PSAs (2:02) - The PSAs feature is just a series of three fake public service announcements centered around the promotion of the film Date Night. They're kind of amusing, but mostly consist of jokes with sexual innuendo.
Date Night translates well as an HD release, but after giving it a second viewing, the film contains some great laughs and a great message about working to keep a marriage alive, but the sexual humor and profanity really hinder the enjoyment factor. I commend the filmmakers on offering a film with a great message, it's just unfortunate that the content was so crude. The Extended Version doesn't really add a whole lot, so you wouldn't be missing much if you passed on watching it, but unfortunately, it's also your only digital copy choice here (however, you can buy the theatrical digital version from iTunes). And it's still a bit odd to watch a comedy like this knowing that it's from the same guy who brought us the considerably more family friendly Night at the Museum films. Hopefully Levy will return to family entertainment with future projects.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/16/10)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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