Monday, April 12, 2010

Legend of the Fey Folk

I normally don't concern myself with how much a movie makes or loses. I consider that to be a concern for the people who made, produced and financed the film. I worry about whether I liked it or not and let people like Nikki Finke worry about the financial side of the movie industry. I make an exception this week, however, for Date Night because I think it's good news that a movie with Tina Fey actually beat back a movie about muscled guys in skirts fighting giant scorpions. I'll be damned if I can remember who wrote the article I read earlier this week urging the world to go see Date Night to support Tina Fey but I agree with that long lost, possibly imaginary person. The fact that Tina Fey exists in this world is a good thing. She has the most consistently funny comedy currently on television and somehow manages to make one funny movie after another. Baby Mama and Mean Girls were not great movies but they were pretty good ones and, frankly, if you manage to make even a mildly funny comedy then you are on par with the guy who discovered plutonium. Think of the number of godawful comedies that have come out just this year.

So, um, how is Date Night? It had more funny jokes than unfunny jokes which puts it into the the "Sure, go ahead and see it" category. It's not a great movie. People won't be quoting it 20 years from now or even 20 days from now but I did have a very pleasant time watching it and then going him and watching Tina Fey again on an-actually-funny episode of Saturday Night Live.

Oh, did you know other people are in Date Night too? Tina Fey and Steve Carrell, star of TV's second best comedy, play Claire and Phil Foster, a somewhat-upper-middle-class suburban couple from New Jersey. They never do anything exciting and seem to wonder why other people do. When Phil, a tax attorney, manages to get some clients a large refund, he wonders why they want to use the money to go on an elaborate vacation instead of putting it into a Roth IRA. Their weekly date night (TITLE ACHIEVED) always takes place at the same middle priced restaurant where they always order the same thing.

At their weekly book club meeting (the first really funny scene of the movie in which they have to read a book about a girl who's trying to menstruate under Taliban rule), they discover that married friends of theirs who live similar lives are planning to divorce due to the lack of adventure in their lives. This shakes them up and they at least decide to jazz up date night by going to a high class restaurant in Manhattan. This is where it stops being a downbeat family drama and starts being a Steve Carrell/Tina Fey comedy. The plot is silly and unimportant and exists only as a clothesline upon which the filmmakers can hang the funny adventures this couple has for the rest of the movie. The Fosters are unable to a table at the snooty restaurant they go to so, rather than settling for a bucket of extra crispy, they take the reservation of a no-show couple and spend the rest of the movie being mistaken for that couple who are targets of mob thugs. Oh, the mob thugs are police. Who work for the District Attorney. And a mobster played by Ray Liotta. Did I mention the plot was silly and unimportant?

Some standout moments include Claire having to listen to the always-funny Kristen Wiig who plays the friend getting divorced and compares herself to that menstruating Afghani girl from their book club. Also, we see James Franco and Mila Kunis as Taste and Whippit (seriously), the low class couple whose reservation the Fosters took. When I saw her in The Book Of Eli, I mentioned that Mila Kunis had become the type of actor who always makes a movie better than it would have been without her and this reinforces my belief. There's a funny sequence in which Taste and Whippit describe relationship problems eerily similar to those of the Fosters except for the parts about drugs, lap dances and stealing from the mob.

Overall, Date Night is a pleasant experience that's worth seeing. I heartily suggest seeing it on an actual date night then you can entertain your friends with jokes about how you saw Date Night on date night. Trust me, they'll love it. You're welcome.

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