Funny? You bet your minivan it's funny!
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, April 9, 2010
Every week on "The Office" and "30 Rock," Steve Carell and Tina Fey make us laugh at the inanities of the American workplace and the absurdities of network television.
Just imagine what they could do with a stripper pole.
In "Date Night," you don't have to imagine. The high point of the movie comes when the two actors -- he dressed in a cheesy nylon track suit, she dolled up like one of Miss Kitty's saloon girls -- encounter the aforementioned furnishing in the back room of a seedy New York sex club and proceed to disport themselves on and around it in as increasingly lubricious a manner as you are likely to ever see, at least from these two normally buttoned-down performers. At one point, Carell runs his tongue along the length of the shiny chrome shaft (germaphobes, be warned).
Like so much of this movie -- which follows the misadventures of a self-described "boring married couple" from New Jersey who are mistaken for blackmailers when they take someone else's reservation at a popular Manhattan restaurant -- it ain't what Carell and Fey do; it's the way they do it. How their characters, CPA Phil Foster and his real-estate agent wife, Claire, even get to that stripper pole is less important than what they do with it when they get there.
Regardless of the silliness of the situation -- or, in truth, because of it -- they're a joy to watch.
The premise of the movie is itself somewhat run-of-the-mill. Directed by Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum") from a script by Josh Klausner, the story looks like just another "The Out-of-Towners": A couple of middle-aged fuddy-duddies get in trouble in the big city and spend 90 minutes going through contortions to clear their names, to mildly amusing effect. In the hands of, say, a Greg Kinnear and a Sarah Jessica Parker, the thing could be a disaster.
It's not. Not by a long shot.
That's because Carell and Fey have something that no movie, no matter how predictable, can stifle. It's called chemistry, but it's not the romantic kind. Instead, it's the power that each of them has to crack the other up. One recurring gag involves Phil and Claire making fun of neighboring diners at their regular weekly dinners out. They never look like they're worried about entertaining us, so much as each other. Be sure and stay through the closing credits for outtakes of the two improvising these and other bits.
Aiding Carell and Fey in their efforts is a talented supporting cast. That includes James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real blackmailers -- hilariously nicknamed "Taste" and "Whippit" -- along with Mark Wahlberg as a black-ops consultant whose help the Fosters seek.
Hang on -- black ops?
I know: It doesn't make sense. It doesn't have to. All it needs to do is make us laugh.
Contains obscenity, plentiful crude humor and some gunplay.