At the beginning of “Date Night,” the new comedy-action movie starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell, you kind of feel like you’re in one of those crossover episodes of a television show. Oh, there’s Michael Scott having dinner with Liz Lemon. It’s not that improbable. The TV shows that have brought Fey and Carell critical acclaim and legions of cult-like fans both occupy prized positions in the NBC comedy world (“Must See TV” if you will), “30 Rock” and “The Office,” respectively.
Although some critics have argued that “Date Night” does not make enough use of the pair’s collective comedic talents, “Date Night,” although not the best comedy ever made, makes for an enjoyable evening.
Admittedly the first part of the film does feel a little bit like a TV show. Fey and Carell play the Fosters, a sitcom worthy couple (NBC, you watching?) whose lives are stagnant. For their traditional “date night” they go to a casual nearby restaurant and watch the other people in the restaurant, deciding what the other couples’ “stories” are. When they get home they debate whether to have sex. Wasn’t this an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”?
The story kicks into gear when Carell decides to take Fey (I almost wrote Lemon here, “30 Rock” fans) out of the suburbs to dinner in New York. When they take a no-show’s reservation at a trendy restaurant, things go horribly wrong as a duo of corrupt cops mistake the Fosters for the no-show Tripplehorns, who seem to be involved in some sort of mess.
I should preface this by saying I’m a Tina Fey fan. I will watch her do pretty much anything. Her talk-show appearances never fail to amuse me. In this movie Fey plays a version of her “30 Rock” alter-ego Liz Lemon. Perhaps not as absurd, Claire Foster is pretty much like a married Liz Lemon, which is funny because Fey has said that Lemon is what Fey would have been if she had not gotten married. Carell blends the hot-headedness of Michael Scott with the naiveté of Andy Stitzer from “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin.” This is all a long way of saying this is nothing new for these guys, but they do what they do well.
What really makes the movie a joy is the people who pop up in cameos. Ray Liotta makes a cameo that makes you want to go home and watch “Goodfellas.” James Franco (future Yalie?) and Mila Kunis are hilarious as the Tripplehorns, who aren’t really the Tripplehorns. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t put a shirt on, which is always appreciated. Leighton Meester, who will always be Blair Waldorf to me, plays a babysitter only slightly less conniving than Queen B, herself. And I’ll watch Kristen Wiig do anything. Even Mark Ruffalo appears in a tiny role. It might be overkill, but everybody’s having fun, turning in laugh-inducing performances, and nobody seems like they are doing it just for the money. Even though, let’s face it, some of them might be.
“Date Night” is not revolutionary. It’s no “40 Year-Old-Virgin,” or even “Mean Girls.” But it’s fun and you can even make a date night out of it. Sorry. I had to.