My favorite sight, if that isn't too much of a stretch.............................


An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            What happens when you pour Hollywood money into a glossy, big screen movie as a vehicle for two television stars? While not a nightmare, disappointment would be a charitable description of "Date Night". Why, given the terrible title, did we have expectations in the first place?

            Tina Fey is the first lure. Highly respected as a comedy writer and performer for "Saturday Night Live" and for NBC's "30 Rock," she is also identified, probably forever, with her brilliant take on Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. In an astute call, Fey decided not to mess with Palin's words, but to deliver them straight - quotes from the source. Fey put all this together without trying to improve on it, and the take has become an enduring moment in the history of political comedy.

            Steve Carell, lacking only the gift of Fey's historical moment, became equally well known for creating the American version of the British comedy "The Office." He has become the new definition of cluelessness, reinvesting the word with fresh meaning during each weekly TV episode. The wise course for the "Date Night" creators would have been to turn these two spontaneous wits loose to indulge themselves in an adlibbing field day. Short of that, watch in "Date Night" what happens when Fey and Carell, seated in an upscale restaurant, indulge in a game of guessing what the other diners are saying to each other. The scene showcases their teamwork, each feeding off the offering of the other. But this is Hollywood, so inevitably, someone at the studio called for the big action tools.

            Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) Foster are trying to liven up the daily drudgery of family life by going out for dinner once a week. Tonight, Phil has chosen The Claw, a Manhattan restaurant beyond their usual reach , as a possible source of diversion and cheer. Seated at a table reserved for the late-to-arrive Tripplehorns, the couple - and the movie - are gobbled alive by the contrivance of mistaken identity. The Tripplehorns, it seems, are involved in some sort of desperate criminal chase involving a purloined flash drive that holds incriminating evidence of the evil deeds of a mob boss. The mob will eradicate the Tripplehorns -ie- Phil and Claire.

            At this point the screen fills with cops, crooks, guns, bullets, car crashes, and chases involving vehicles and our heroes who by now want only to get back to their dull family life in New Jersey. My favorite sight, if that isn't too much of a stretch, is the couple navigating a getaway in a 10 h.p. tin rowboat. It captures visually, and just for moments, the appealing ineptitude Carell and Fey are trying to convey. They won't be hurt by this misstep, and actually, neither will you if you see it because someone had the very good sense to clock this movie at just one hour and twenty-eight minutes.



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