April 10, 2010

Date Night (04/10/2010)

Lettergrade: D-

You gotta commend whomever thought it was a good idea to pair up immensely likable NBC sit-com stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey in a movie together, but I'm a little hard pressed to find anything nice to say about the screenwriter and the director behind Date Night, who both failed to come up with a good way to use all that charm and talent.

Most of the movie is inoffensive enough, I guess. The comedic bright spots seem to come out of pure improvisation that probably ran rampant on the set. Director Shawn Levy, whose crimes against humanity include Big Fat Liar, Just Married, that stupid Pink Panther remake with Steve Martin, and those awful fucking Night At The Museum movies where Ben Stiller is even more horrible and not funny than normal, tries to spice things up with that most desperate of cinematic gimmicks: An endless stream of wacky celebrity cameos. Most of them don't really work (which they usually don't), but there was a great segment featuring James Franco and Mila Kunis as a pair of would-be blackmailers that actually had me chuckling a little.

The rest of the movie, while pleasant, wouldn't exist if all the characters weren't completely lacking any degree common sense and if they didn't do bizarre, irrational, out-of-character things at key moments during the movie in order to keep the malnourished plot limping along. Take, for example, the incident that sets the picture's plot in motion: Carell wants to do something exciting with his wife, as he fears that their routine lives will eventually move her to leave him, as has recently happened to a couple up the street. They go to a swank restaurant in the city, but when they can't get a table, they decide to take the reservation of a couple that has apparently decided to not show up. Fine. Then, a couple of thugs mistake them for a pair of blackmailers they're after, North By Northwest style, and pull them out into the alley to rough them up. Carell tries to explain that they've got the wrong couple, but when the thugs don't believe him, he comes up with this elaborate story that will lead them all deep into Central Park together where he says they're retrieve a USB drive that has some critical files on it (screenwriters these days are no longer allowed to use "Microfilm" as their MacGuffin, I guess).

Anyway, is it just me or does anyone stupid enough lead two armed thugs out to the middle of nowhere - far from any witnesses - to a location where there's supposedly some information that he doesn't actually have (and won't be able to get) seem mind-numbingly idiotic and automatically deserve to get shot in the fucking head and dumped into the East River? Anyway, they somehow give the thugs the slip anyway, and then come up with the brilliant plan to find the people who DO have the USB drive, and make them give it back to the killers, thinking that it will somehow make them not want to kill them anymore.

But wait... the world-class intellectual summit meeting that must have taken place during the film's development process yields even more impressive fruit next: Tina Fey is a real estate agent, you see, and has a former client played by Marky Mark Wahlberg who is some kind of international secret agent who has all these high tech computers and guns around. He helps Fey and Carell figure out what part of the plot they're supposed to trample through next at a few different times during the movie, and then loans them his mega high tech James Bond car so they can participate in an extended chase scene that destroys a good amount of Manhattan, it seems. When they meet up again later, after the car has been completely demolished, Wahlberg reacts the only way he ever does in any movie to any news, be it good or bad: He has a look of mild concern.

There's nothing much more to say about this one, but I will take this opportunity to say that if you (and I) keep buying tickets to see lazy, insipid sad-excuses for comedies like this, they're going to keep making them. If you see "directed by Shawn Levy" on any movie in the future, DON'T pay to see it. Don't rent it, don't talk about it with anyone, don't even watch it for free when they run it in an endless loop on TBS in a couple years. Just find something else to do with yourself than spend 80 minutes watching this turd biscuit. ANYTHING else.

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