'Date Night' Actors Are 'Funnier' Than The Flick

The big movie opening this weekend is a vehicle for a couple of sitcom stars. Date Night showcases Tina Fey and Steve Carell. But film critic Kenneth Turan says it's a "half-baked comedy."

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Since we're in a theatrical frame of mind, we go now to movie theaters, where the big film opening this weekend is a vehicle for a couple of sitcom stars. "Date Night" showcases Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Critic Kenneth Turan is not laughing as much as he wanted to.

KENNETH TURAN: "Date Night" is a half-baked comedy. It's funny but it will more than likely leave you hungry for more. Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two people who could make the phone book funny. They play the Fosters, a boring couple from New Jersey whose planned romantic night in Manhattan goes terribly wrong.

(Soundbite of movie, "Date Night")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (as Phil Foster): We couldn't get a table, so we ended up taking somebody else's reservation.

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (as character) You took someone's reservation?

Mr. CARELL (as Phil Foster): Yeah. Yeah, we took it. So we're in the middle of dinner and these guys come up. Turns out these guys work for Joe Miletto.

TURAN: Those reservations belonged to some bad people, and taking their table led to a case of mistaken identity that put the Fosters in harm's way.

With nowhere else to turn, Mrs. Foster remembers a former client, played by Mark Wahlberg, who just happens to be a security expert. The interaction that follows, often involving Wahlberg's refusal to put on a shirt, is the funniest part of the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "Date Night")

Mr. CARELL: Tell you what we should do. We have a lot of time, so why don't you shirt it up and then we will get what we need and then we'll be out of your hair.

Ms. FEY: Basically, we have a phone number that we need to get an address from and I remember that you used to run your own detective agency or something?

Mr. CARELL: There is your shirt. No wonder you couldn't find it. It's on her.

TURAN: This adult comedy is fine, but the problem is that it's not okay for a movie to be one thing these days, it has to be all things. So, "Date Night" contrives some awkward and self-consciously poignant moments between the Fosters. And the kind of super elaborate car chase Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn would have refused to be part of.

Director Shawn Levy based his career on the overdone "Night at the Museum" franchise, and he's trying the same throwing-everything-into-the-pot trick once again. Carrel and Fey could be really funny. Just watch the gag reel outtakes at the beginning and the end of the final credits. When you see what these two can do, you can't escape the feeling that these performers are a lot funnier than "Date Night" allows them to be.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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