When Tina Fey and Steve Carell headline a film together, the natural assumption is that the end result is going to be a hilarious ride where the laughs never stop coming. Unfortunately, the end result does add up to the expectations.
Claire and Phil Foster (Fey and Carell) lead a very boring life. They get up in the morning, take care of their kids, go to work, come home and go to sleep, only to do it all again the next morning. Their only reprieve from the monotony of their life is their weekly date night, but even then they do the same thing. When the divorce of friends awakens them to their dormant marital state, Phil decides to spice things up a bit by taking his wife out to a fancy dinner in the city. But when stealing someone’s reservation leads to trouble with a pair of crooked cops, the Fosters will go to extreme lengths to clear their name.
Carell and Fey are a lot of fun to watch, even though the material they have to work with isn’t that fresh. Although I enjoy him quite a bit in “The Office,” Carell still feels a little bit his character Michael Scott from said show, if only slightly smarter and more aware. The thugs chasing the Fosters throughout the film feel more like caricatures than true villains, which may be the point. Mark Wahlberg’s performance is really underwhelming, as he doesn’t do anything with enthusiasm and appears to be just waiting for a paycheck. Perhaps that’s the reason he has his shirt off for the majority of his screen time.
With the recent spew of films featuring marital couples trying to work out their differences, I was hoping “Date” would be the odd man out in the bunch and deliver something truly original and clever. That’s not entirely the case here. It actually feels like a grown-up version of “Adventures in Babysitting,” which offers a mixed bag of emotion. The humor employed by Fey is reminiscent of her character on “30 Rock,” especially when she makes a quip about having to eat food off the floor when someone throws her dish to the ground. But for comedians as great as Fey and Carell are, there really aren’t too many laughs, or at least not as many as I was expecting.
The action here also isn’t that exciting. The audience knows that neither Carell nor Fey is going to be seriously injured in any way. Any moments of danger they find themselves in are wasted by the fact that the results hold no real moments of jeopardy. It’s action for the sake of action and that brings the film down a bit.
The screenplay by Josh Klausner is able to foreshadow a number of things that are called upon later in the film, but these plot points often border on being entirely cliché. The film also ends upon a note that anybody could have figured out. I wasn’t really looking for a mind-blowing ending, but something a little different than a husband and wife rediscovering their love for one another would have been kind of nice.
Director Shawn Levy directs “Date” in a by-the-numbers fashion. He doesn’t take any chances in crafting a story that might be different from its predecessors. I suppose that’s the point, though, but with Fey and Carell headlining the film, it’s almost assured that the film will make money.
“Date” is a funny movie to be sure, but with a better script it definitely could have been better.