Date Night: *** (out of 4)
Honestly, they had me at the movie poster. Steve Carell and Tina Fey; I love 'em. Some of it is their "fake news" background - Carell was on The Daily Show back at its peak, Tina Fey kept Weekend Update entertaining when the rest of SNL had been driven into a lake. More of it is their TV and movie output - The Office and 30 Rock are both great, and I re-watch The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Mean Girls fairly regularly. But mostly, it's their general comic sensibilities that very clearly come from an improv comedy standpoint. The two of them consistently make their partners look good on screen; this was a pairing that definitely had to be seen, no matter the subject.
Then I saw the trailer.
Thus it was with great trepidation that I went to this movie tonight. I almost talked myself into going to see something else; I just didn't want to be disappointed. I mean - seriously? A fish-out-of-water action flick? Why? They can't possibly play to their strengths that way; these are not action stars, not even of the "growing into their action strengths" style. And as I sat in the theatre, surrounded be teenagers cooing over the trailers for other movies I don't intend to see, my decision grew less and less reasonable...
Happily, my first instincts were the stronger ones.
It helped that the movie started on a strengths - Tina Fey and Steve Carell are happily married but live in a rut, and show it off for a while. You can see that they're happy together, that they love each other, that they're interesting and not-entirely-boring people; and you can tell that they're both a bit insecure about the rut, but not really horrified. Even the decision to get out of the rut comes across fairly organically out of simple attempts to try harder. It was natural, it fit, and it was sweet and funny and just that little bit gross that you'd expect out of these two actors.
Yeah, we pretty quickly got into the stupid action parts. And yeah, those parts were pretty lame. But what of it? Throughout the movie, the two of them still acted like a couple. They made fun of each other, but only in small ways and over things that were clearly argued about before. They made up for each other's weak points where possible. They watched the horrors around them and ran with it in the same way that they'd deal with their kids. And through all of this, the plot washed over and past them.
Date Night is not a classic by any means. It could have been cuter, it could have developed its secondary characters more, and it could have had a plot that made a lick of sense. But given that the movie came up in a gaudy wrapper promising strippers and gun-play, I'm pretty excited to have gotten a low-key, sweet comedy that had two actors making the other look better.