Fey and Carell finally find their feet in “Date Night”

Tina Fey and Steve Carell get down and dirty in “Date Night.” (Image courtesy 20th Century Fox, photo Myles Aronowitz)

Despite singular success on television Tina Fey and Steve Carell have repeatedly stumbled when trying to make the leap to the big screen.

The ease which Fey showed in “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” and Carell’s angst on “The Office,” didn’t translate into big laughs in movies such as “Mean Girls” and Baby Mama” for Fey and “Even Almighty,” “Dan in Real Life,” and “Get Smart” for Carell.

Yet in Shawn Levy’s new comedy “Date Night,” Fey and Carell take off as Claire and Phil Foster, a New Jersey couple who believe a night on the town in Manhattan will revitalize their marriage. Lacking a reservation at a hip eatery, they pretend to be another couple to get a table. But what they see as a minor and excusable breach of etiquette drops them into a Gotham underworld where a lot of people seem really upset with them, and many of those people have large guns.

It’s a formula which has been tried before, but Fey and Carell are able to apply their ‘inner nebbish’ to the situation. It seems that screenwriter and director Levy gave his actors room to improvise, and they use that freedom to deliver some spectacular lines.

Thrown in a little action from the Blues Brothers school of automotive care, and some great bit parts by Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, and Mila Kunis, and you have a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.

Say, on a date night?

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