Tina Fey. Steve Carell. Nuff said, right?
No? You still need more convincing? Well, maybe you should flip along to the next blog because you and I might not have anything more to say to each other. I love improv and there is nothing more delightful to me than watching Improvisers Gone Big. (Like “Girls Gone Wild” but with less perky boobs.)
If you’re still here, perhaps you’re on the fence about Date Night because, like a friend recently told me, he’d heard some iffy review although he confessed in a secretive whisper, “I deeply love Tina Fey.” Ok, I’m rubbing my hands together with anticipation because now we’re speaking the same language. Now we can have a reasonable conversation about Date Night. (Ok, I realize this is a one-way conversation, with me doing all the talking. But if you know me in real life, you won’t be surprised by this conversational status.)
I’m just gonna go ahead and hit it hard from the top by right away giving you the number one thing I loved about this movie: Date Night is a good, old-fashioned entertainment movie. By “old-fashioned,” I’m talking about the 80’s here, like Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours and other movies that may or may not have “Beverly Hills” or Eddie Murphy in them. Date Night is funny without being crude or mean. It’s light-hearted without being intellectually insulting (or intellectually taxing.) It’ll probably make you feel good without being too sickly sweet. It has great acting without starring Meryl Streep. It contains exciting action sequences, mercifully without being in 3D. It has a bit of a story without making you feel guilty for not saving the world.
Fey and Carell play a married-with-kids suburbanites having a long overdue night out on the town in New York City. They are just ordinary folks, who find themselves in extraordinary situations. They end up getting mistaken for a pair of criminals…and chaos ensues. Yes, admittedly, a formulaic plotline (think North by Northwest and while you’re thinking of that movie, go ahead and put it on your Netflix list because chances are you haven’t seen it in a long time, if ever, and that movie rocks big time. Plus Cary Grant is quite delicious in it.) Personally, I immediately forgave Date Night for its predictability. In fact, I’m a gal who likes what she knows and knows what she likes, so it felt even more comforting to be able to relax into this movie without worrying about jarring surprises. But hey, I always order the same thing when I go to restaurants (bi bim bop at Kim’s Korean in Hadley, deluxe crunch roll at Zen in Northampton, chickpea and red curry burrito at Bueno Y Sano in Amherst) because I love never being disappointed.
Carell and Fey have wonderful chemistry. Maybe I’m being naïve, but there seems to be no way they weren’t having a sincerely good time together making this movie. Make sure you stay for the outtakes at the end for proof that the smart, smart director of this movie let them do what they do best, improvise. I particularly love the game they play at restaurants when they take turns supplying the voices for other patrons. Classic improv game fare, and oh so yummy. My favorite was the one when Fey is narrating the voice of some pretty blond and says, “"That's amazing, Jeremy, but I'm going to go home now and fart in a shoebox." And then you hear Tina Fey, the actress, mutter under her breath, “That’s not…that doesn’t make sense.” (She tells it better. Check out the clip here.) I felt like I was at an improv rehearsal with them, watching them battle to see who could make the other one break character first. Priceless.
Like most of the best comedians out there right now, both Fey and Carell started out in the Chicago improv scene. For those of you who don’t know, Chicago is the birthplace and mecca of modern improv comedy, with iO (formerly ImprovOlympics) being the epicenter of the improv universe. Many of the comedians you love have gone through there. Here’s a taste of iO alums: Rachel Dratch, Jason Sudeikis, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Angela Kinsey, Neil Flynn, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Mike Meyers, and Stephen Colbert.
Oh, and guess who else recently went to iO? Yeah. That’s right. Me. Sure, sure, I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who got to perform in the Theater That Del Built, but I went there. I visited. I watched. I laughed. (Read this in a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. voice.) I have been to the Promised Land, my brothers and sisters. I braved the crowds at the Chicago Improv Festival. I climbed to the top of Mount Funny. And I can say it is all that and more, yeah, all that and more. Not only is Date Night a fun, feel-good flick, but it made me feel even closer to the improv gods and goddesses at whose alter I pray, depositing my ticket stub as a sacrificial offering, lighting a candle in hopes that the goddess of laughter will smile down upon me again. Hallelujah and amen. (Back to regular voice now.)
But you’ll probably just like the movie because it’s funny.