‘Date Night’: Improvisation adds to hilarity

  • Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, April 8, 2010 7:40pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The value of employing top-drawer comedy performers is amply demonstrated in “Date Night,” a movie with a lazy concept redeemed by a pair of superb comic brains.

The brains belong to Tina Fey and Steve Carell. In one of those end-credits blooper reels, they can be seen improvising variations on their dialogue, which only confirms what you’ve probably suspected while watching the movie itself: that these two have punched up, embroidered and otherwise re-written the script credited to Josh Klausner.

The premise is simple enough: A suburban couple, aware that their marriage is losing its fizz, book a night at a pretentious new Manhattan restaurant. A mistaken-identity situation results in their taking a roller-coaster ride through the rest of the evening, as they’re chased by gangsters, crooked cops and assorted lowlifes.

Capable actors flash by in smaller roles throughout the film: Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig as friends, James Franco and Mila Kunis as small-time thieves, Ray Liotta as a gangster.

In one of the funnier running bits, Mark Wahlberg appears as a secret agent who refuses to put his shirt on. No, it doesn’t sound funny, but the nature of running gags is that they build over time.

But mostly the film consists of the two comedy pros at centerstage, bantering with each other and panning for gold. Both are accomplished improvisers, and Fey has as long a track record as a writer (with “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”) as she does as an actor.

Frequently, the film simply stops to allow these two to toss one-liners at each other. They pretty much stick with their usual screen images: Fey is smart and acerbic, Carell is fatuous and prone to sudden outbursts of hysteria (though ultimately he’s much nicer than his character on “The Office,” needless to say).

It’s a good argument for the importance of character over plot — the story line is nothing, but the people onscreen are good company.

Credit director Shawn Levy, whose slapstick filmography has wasted a lot of hours over the last few years (“Night at the Museum,” “The Pink Panther”), for letting his actors do their thing.

In fact, if the DVD has extended outtakes, it might be a better idea to skip the film entirely and simply watch those. And no, I’m not really kidding.

“Date Night”

Tina Fey and Steve Carell are a married couple carried into a night of intrigue — but the plot hardly matters in this movie, which is solely enjoyable as a vehicle for its two gifted stars. They’re clearly improvising a lot of dialogue, which makes the whole thing not only bearable but reasonably funny.

Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, subject matter

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Metro, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor

Talk to us

More in Life

Washington’s most beloved state park turns 100

Deception Pass State Park, which draws as many visitors as the best-known national parks in the U.S., celebrates a century of recreation and conservation

Hydrangea and rose
July checklist for Snohomish County gardeners

After a slow start to summer, things should take off this month. So keep planting and nurturing.

Caption: The 12 week Edmonds Community Police Academy was a free opportunity for private citizens to learn about law enforcement.
An inside look at how law enforcement works

A pregnant mother. A man who rescues abused horses and donkeys. A… Continue reading

Kid 'n Play members Christopher "Kid" Reid, left, and Christopher "Play" Martin perform on NBC's "Today" show during the "I Love The 90's" morning concert at Rockefeller Plaza on Friday, April 29, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Relive the music of the 1990s with Kid N Play and other stars of the era at the Tulalip Casino Amphitheater.

So-called relaxing summer vacations can wear you out

To truly enjoy a family getaway, tone down your expectations. Everything won’t be picture-perfect.

Gimmelwald, built in an avalanche zone, yet specializing in alpine tranquility.
Roaming the Alps brings cultural insights along with the views

The Swiss have great respect for Alpine traditions and culture — and contempt for tourists who disrespect both.

Will TripMate cover costs for trip canceled for medical reasons?

After Stanley Wales cancels his diving trip to Bonaire, he files a travel insurance claim with TripMate. What’s taking them so long to respond?

Contestant chef Brian Madayag (left) of Edmonds and West Coast team captain Brooke Williamson on “Beachside Brawl.” (Food Network) 20220616
Edmonds chef reps Pacific Northwest on new Food Network show

Barkada owner Brian Madayaga will compete on a new Food Network series that premiers Sunday.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’ (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Kosteri’

This Hinoki cypress is graceful and beautiful, and is very drought-tolerant once established.

Most Read