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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Let’s have a ‘Date Night’

Published: April 16, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

Though Steve Carell and Tina Fey slip comfortably into the role of a mundane married couple in the new comedy “Date Night,” they never lose the comedic genius that made their past movies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Mean Girls” hits.

Instead of playing the loser characters with which they’ve become associated, Carell and Fey star as Phil and Claire Foster, a regular couple—one is a tax lawyer and the other a real estate agent—living in the New Jersey suburbs. While enjoying a night out, they spontaneously claim a stranger’s dinner reservation at a restaurant in an effort to liven up their marriage. This seemingly minor action entangles them with the mafia when two thugs turn up at their table, mistaking them for the couple for whom the reservation was originally scheduled.

It is Carell and Fey’s ability to have the audience take them seriously that heightens the film’s humor and makes the film a hit. For instance, one scene in which Phil and Claire must perform a burlesque dance to gain access to a seedy government official is so successful because they aren’t necessarily the bumbling idiots these actors have played in the past, but a straight-laced couple from suburbia.

However, Carell and Fey do not hog the limelight the entire time. Like any good movie, the film’s supporting cast members do not function merely in the background, but contribute just as much as the two stars to the film’s charm. The film features cameos from various actors, each of whom injects the plot with a burst of energy.

Ray Liotta plays a graying mob boss, somewhat of a tribute to his past role in the iconic gangster drama “Goodfellas.”

James Franco, best known for his work in the “Spiderman” movies, and Mila Kunis, of “That ’70s Show” fame, appear as the actual holders of the reservation, a trashy couple making a living off of stripping and attempted blackmail. Much of the entertainment value of this scene comes from watching Franco, who prior to “Pineapple Express” took only the most serious of movie roles, first appear with gross facial scruff and wearing ragged boxers. Despite his grimy appearance, Franco recaptures the charm of his “Pineapple Express” character, again showing that even the seediest characters can have a heart of gold—well not quite, but something like it.

Perhaps the most unlikely laughs came from watching Mark Wahlberg’s character, Holbrooke, a former government/black ops security specialist, who helps the naïve Fosters get themselves out of their dilemma. Even though Wahlberg and Carell are opposites in terms of comedic style, it works for the movie. Wahlberg does not attempt to rival Carell’s goofiness. Instead, he employs sarcasm and deadpan humor, allowing him to secure some of the wittiest one-liners and funniest parts of the film.

The pairing of Carell and Fey, supported by notable supporting actors, is a perfect match. Though the film’s humor may seem repetitive at times, it is refreshing to see Carell and Fey temper their quirkiness and play a straight-laced but goofy couple. Though not the most outrageous film on either actor’s resume, “Date Night” is definitely a film worth catching on a date night of your own.