What do you get when two of today’s funniest comedians pair up in an otherwise predictable movie? Comedy heaven. Or something like it at least. Steve Carell, best known for his brilliant role as bumbling and slightly idiotic boss Michael Scott on The Office plays a mild mannered husband, tax adviser and tired husband. Tina Fey, known for being the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live and now as the creator, writer, producer and star of 30 Rock plays Clair foster, mild mannered wife, realter, and tired mother. Struggling to keep their relationship new and spontaneous, the two embark on “date nights” once a month, which usually end up at a chain restaurant talking about the kids or what they have to do in the next week. Seldom do they ever get to relax. We pity the couple, partly because we know many people like them.
When learning their friends are getting a divorce and because their relationship lacked spark, there’s an ignited spark in the both of them. Clair gets all prepped and goosied up for their evening, as does Phil. He thinks they can go to a new, expensive, ritzy restaurant and just mosey on in without prior reservations. When turned away, the Phil decides to simply take the reservation of a couple whose surname is Tripplehorn. The two are vibrant; it seems as if they’re really enjoying a new, spontaneous “them”. But then their evening goes awry, as two thuggish men threaten them and open up a story about corruption, crooked cops, extortion, and prostitution.
What does all this storyline mean? Really, it’s quite confusing at times, but predictable nevertheless. It’s not really the storyline that matters as much as the two leads’ chemistry. That is what the film was basically built around. Funny Liz Lemon who’s rather dorky but smart paired up with funny Michael Scott who’s sweet but idiotic and offensive. But no, actually. Both of them, because they are such great actors and comedians, step out of their well known personas and embody Phil and Clair Foster, New Jersey suburbanites who just want a night out.
The film itself is quite funny, its plot never detracting from the enjoyment of the humor. Mark Wahlberg shows up as a shirtless security operator of sorts and the on running joke is that Clair and he flirt while he refuses to put on his shirt. The slap stick is amusing, but oddly childish. That may be because Shawn Levy directed it, and while he’s experienced with big films, both of the big films he’s directed have been part of the Night at the Museum franchise.
However, one of the oddest things about the film is its message. Apparent from the beginning the point of the film is to love your partner and think about how the other person feels. What I wasn’t expecting was how vehemently it would be pounded into the film. Several scenes are devoted to rather schmaltzy conversations about love and marriage and they don’t do that well. It seems mildly inappropriate for a comedy like this to be so blatantly promoting marriage for some reason.
But for all of the film’s flaws, it has a bright sense of humor. WHile the plot was weak, the sensibility of comedic timing glows throughout the script, again enhanced by Tina Fey and Steve Carell. One of the fiunniest scenes is when the couple crackdown on a prostitution ring ding the most hilariously bad stripper-dance-with-a-pole I have ever seen. The scene is funny enough, but the facial expressoins of the lead actors elevate it from being an awkward funny scene to a knee-slapping hysterical scene.
The film is salvaged from its mediocre plot, confusing storyline, and lovey-dovey scenes by its stars. Carell and Fey are fantastic, as both of their best comedic chops are used in the film. Both of them are great at freaking out, from Liz Lemon stressing over a sketch to Michael Scott stressing over…something undoubtedly insignificant to the real workplace. The delivery of their lines is fantastically deadpan. I would compare this movie to 2009’s Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Were it not for the two charming leads, the film would have succumbed to its extremely confusing and snarky script, but was saved from that disastrous fate. It is the same here for Carell and Fey. And if it weren’t for them, this film would be a total goner.