Steve Carell might be Hollywood’s greatest current tragi-comic thespian (if you’ve seen The Office US, you already know this). Tina Fey is one of America’s smartest, sharpest comediennes (she wrote Mean Girls, remember).
James Franco might be the best young actor in Hollywood (check out funnyordie.com, then watch him in Milk). Mark Wahlberg is leading-man poison but supporting-man genius (well worth that Oscar nod in The Departed).
And, more often than not, Hollywood has no idea what to do with any of them. So they end up in movies like Date Night, in which Carell and Fey play Phil and Claire Foster, a middle-aged couple grinding through marriage, work and parenthood like robots.
They love each other. They’re just tired. So they visit an expensive Manhattan restaurant to rediscover their passion for each other before they end up as another divorce statistic. Then, just when it looks like a witty exploration of adult relationships – an Apatow-esque drama of swears, subtlety and silliness – the movie spins off hopelessly into the night like a bizarre romcom remake of After Hours. At least, that’s just one of the many things that it might have been.
Screenwriter Josh Klausner (Shreks 3 and 4) just keeps shovelling on more madness: mistaken identity, a pair of armed goons, Ray Liotta as a Mob boss, Franco and Mila Kunis as crims and, best of all, Wahlberg as a former Black Ops expert (!) who refuses to put a shirt on.
Climaxing on a ludicrous conjoined car chase, Date Night could (and maybe should) have been an absolute traffic accident. But amid the dumbness and dross, Carell and co keep mining shards of comic brilliance and, even more unlikely, some disarming glints of emotion.
Night At The Museum director Shawn Levy keeps the movie barrelling along obliviously, seemingly without ever knowing or caring what he’s doing. Worth the ride? Just. Only just.