I’d seen the trailer about six times. The trailer’s a laugh a second, which can be a problem. I’ve seen a few films with great trailers which include every decent joke and exciting action in the entire movie.
Date Night is the “innocents get embroiled in crime and get chased” caper. The genre peaked with North By Northwest which has never been bettered, but other versions of the formula are entertaining … The Silver Streak transfers from a couple to two guys, Outrageous Fortune transfers to two gals. So you know the basic plot. It’s always then down to how well the lead actors carry it off. All of the above had formidable pairings: Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest; Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in The Silver Streak; Bette Midler and Shelley Long in Outrageous Fortune. This time it’s Steve Carrell and Tina Fey as the couple who nick someone else’s dinner reservation and land themselves in the middle of a crime.
Carrell is accomplished as the innocent in this kind of caper, and his career includes Saturday Night Live, really taking off with the success of The 40 Year Old Virgin. Tina Fey was a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live as well as in 30Rock. A must when viewing the film is to wait past the short outtakes during the credits to the longer outtakes after the credits, where we see her improvising dialogue. Improvising after the director shouts “Cut!” is beloved of inventive comedy actors, and Fey is ideal for the part. You can see they’re both excellent improvising comedians as well as actors in the outtakes. Internet comment seems to divide on which one was funnier. It’s hardly fair because they bounce off each other with ease and switch between the roles of provider of feed line and provider of joke line smoothly. The chemistry is great.
The scene when they return to the expensive seafood restaurant is improvised in the outtakes in a variety of ways.
The good news is that the trailer revealed some hilarious bits, but there are many, many more in the film. There’s the car chase sequence. You have to have the car chase, and if possible the hazardous combat on the outside of a moving vehicle (a train is normal, but a plane is close second). What can you do that’s new, exciting and funny in something done this often? They manage to incorporate both and it’s spectacular. The cameos have to be good, and they are. Mark Wahlberg turns up as the toned and shirtless cool guy they go to for help. William Fichtner (fresh from Prison Break) is the crooked DA.
It’s not North by Northwest, but nor were any of the others in the genre. It’s a highly entertaining 88 minutes without any surprises, or innovations but an excellent example of a job well-filmed, well-directed, well-scripted and well-acted.