Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Can TV’s Two Best Comedy Stars Have a Movie Hit?


Shaun Levy’s new comedy asks the question: “Can TV’s two biggest sitcom stars have a movie hit?”

The answer is: maybe.

Steve Carell comes from “The Office,” Tina Fey from “30 Rock.” Their shows play back to back on Thursdays on NBC, which also begs the question: why isn’t this movie with Universal instead of 20th Century Fox? But that’s another story.

Together, Carell and Fey play a married suburban couple looking for a little fun in the city on “Date Night.” The movie premiered last night at Ziegfeld in a rather odd opening. Aside from the cast and a few of Tina’s 30 Rock-ers like Alec Baldwin and Jane Krakowski, there were no celebrities except for Hugh Jackman, Regis and Joy Philbin, and Dick Cavett. It was a little weird. The premiere had no introduction either; the film started, albeit 30 minutes or more late.

“Date Night” is a solid popcorn comedy for spring. Need a grade? I’d say Bplus with potential. It does have many cameos, from Mark Ruffalo to Mark Wahlberg to James Franco (who almost steals the film) and Mila Kunis and Ray Liotta. It runs the gamut from the cerebral to the ridiculous, with heavy doses of Tina Fey’s comedy strewn throughout the mix.

“Date Night” is also mercifully short. They don’t belabor the point. The movie is really just about Steve and Tina goofing off each other. There’s a little bit about marriage to make things thoughtful. But then again, for a cerebral comedy, I’ve never heard the words penis and vagina so often.

What “Date Night” did make me think is that it would be funnier if Carell’s crowd from “The Office” got tickets to see Tina’s show on “30 Rock” and the two groups wound up crossing paths.

Meanwhile, the after party was one of these “filmmakers only” things, so others made the best of it. Over at Sirio Maccione’s perenially great Osteria del Circo (run by his famous son Marco), several audience members decided to treat themselves including producer Marty Bregman, the Philbins, Peggy Siegal and Susan Hess.

I don’t know if Regis liked the movie; he’ll talk about it on his show. But I should think this Friday, at least, will be “Date Night” everywhere. It’s worth just seeing the two stars do their thing. And PS: Mark Wahlberg does a perfect job spoofing himself.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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