What rhymes with date? Late, which is how this Tina Fey and Steve Carell movie was screened. WW reviews it anyway!

Date Night


WW Critic's Score: 53

Both leads of clever NBC comedies that people claim to watch but often do not, Tina Fey and Steve Carell aren't making the same mistake with their movie. Date Night opens by anxiously establishing its suburban credentials—like you, Tina and Steve are exhausted by their children and lackluster in their matrimony; unlike you, they have been mistakenly targeted for execution by dirty cops. Just as Couples Retreat sent its bourgie burnouts to Polynesia, and Hot Tub Time Machine sent the worse halves back to the Jacuzzi, Date Night screenwriter Josh Klausner flings his weary marrieds into a Manhattan blackmail mystery. This is comedy as vicarious therapy: The couple on screen live dangerously to restore the spark to their relationship, so you can keep the Friday multiplex routine in yours. Everybody wins.

They're a perfectly tolerable pair to go double with. Director Shawn Levy (the one who does the Nights at the Museums, not the Oregonian scribe) has clearly asked Fey and Carell to tone down their more buffoonish tendencies; this is a good exercise for him, though it makes her seem even more ready for a burlesque revival of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I know how sick you must be of hearing that a movie's best stuff is in the gag real, but along with the usual bust-gut line flubs, Date Night's end credits include some inspired tag-team improv from Fey and Carell—her snooty French accent is especially good. In the actual movie, the stars aren't allowed to wander very far afield: They are going to be Just Like Us, and we aren't that funny.

Perhaps fearing that his smothered television stars won't carry a major motion picture, Levy has recruited a regiment of big-screen faces. While Fey's 30 Rock is often compared to The Muppet Show, Date Night has as many one-scene celebrity cameos as The Muppet Movie. These float the film. Here's Mark Wahlberg playing a variation on Boogie Nights' Rahad Jackson; there's William Fichtner as a prostitute-frequenting District Attorney who is meant to call to mind Elliot Spitzer. (Fey and Carell do a hapless pole dance for him; the bumbling striptease isn't amusing, but Fichtner's outlandishly louche responses are.) Best are James Franco and Mila Kunis as a hesher Tracy and Hepburn; I would pay 3-D prices to see them bicker in their own cranked-out feature.

Even J. B. Smoove—the unforgettable Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm—drops in for a scene. He's a cabbie who responds with laudatory resourcefulness when Carell glues a roadster into the front of his Checker grill. Carell eventually forces a screaming Smoove into the passenger seat of his own cab as they burn rubber in reverse. One shot later, he's still bawling but, improbably, he's managed to buckle his seat belt. And there's your movie: Comedy pretending to be out of control, but securely fastened in its safety restraints. PG-13.

Date Night opens Friday at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century at Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Moreland Theatre, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, St. Johns Twin Cinemas and Pub, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.