Date Night (Blu-ray)
Directed by Shawn Levy
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 88/101 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Review Date: August 10, 2010
At one time, screwball comedies were among the most entertaining of movie genres. You won’t find films much funnier than The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, or His Girl Friday. But times have changed, and filmmakers who set out to make screwball comedies now just don’t know how to do it. They typically end up with something like Shawn Levy’s Date Night: a frenzied farce that’s more tiresome than funny. There are some decent comedic set-ups for jokes and silly business, but a lot of it is so telegraphed and obvious that the fun is over almost before it starts. Two highly regarded television comics give it their all, but the writing ultimately lets them down.
Upon learning that their neighbors Brad and Haley (Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig) are splitting up, longtime married couple Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tiny Fey) Foster decide they need to switch things up a bit in their marriage to try to recapture the magic of romance. Instead of their usual date night at a local New Jersey family restaurant, they take the plunge into New York City to go to a swank establishment where they find the only way they can get a table is to steal the reservations of another couple who didn’t bother showing up. At that point two apparent hit men (Jimmi Simpson, Common) convinced the masquerading couple is who they’re really looking for escort them from the restaurant and demand a flash drive which, obviously, the Fosters don’t have. They manage to break free of their captors and flee for their lives, and for the rest of the evening, they try to solve the mystery of this mysterious couple, the missing flash drive, and how seemingly the entire New York police force is out looking for them.
Josh Klausner’s screenplay sets up lots of frantic chases and slapstick encounters (everything from constant slamming into open drawers, running into glass doors, and puking on the pavement), but one must really turn off his brain and go with the flow here because the movie’s entire house of cards would collapse immediately if for one second the couple had enough presence of mind to trust the kindly police detective (Taraji P. Henson) they seek help from instead of panicking when they learn the hit men are also dirty cops and assuming that no cops could be trusted. So, instead we get these endless excursions into breaking and entering buildings, tracking down the real on-the-lam couple with a few keystrokes (if the inexperienced Fosters could do it, why couldn’t these cops and the D.A. with endless databases at their disposal do the same thing?), stealing guns and cars and clothes, and being part of a wild and wooly car case through the streets of New York at night with two cars locked bumper-to-bumper smashing into all manner of objects (with the air bags inflating and the windows all being shot out) and yet emerging without so much as a tiny cut. It’s insulting to watch such flagrant thoughtless absurdity instead of intelligently reasoned-out farcical situations. Shawn Levy, who’s been handling the harried plotlines of the Night at the Museum films lately, keeps things moving once the chases begin, but even the most adept direction in the world and two of the best ad-libbers in the business tossing off one liners by the dozens can’t turn dross into diamonds. The Out-of-Towners, Into the Night, and After Hours did the nightmare New York experience must more memorably than Date Night does.
Steve Carell and his feminine equivalent Tina Fey pair together well enough (though their similarities in delivery and demeanor become tiresome twice as quickly), and at one point they do a robotic pole dance that’s very funny and their best moment in the movie. Bad guys Common and Jimmi Simpson are just threatening enough to work as the antagonists, but the movie really scores in a series of very effective cameos: Mark Wahlberg as a shirtless security agent (a funny running gag), William Fichtner as the D.A. with decidedly peculiar sexual tastes, Mila Kunis and James Franco as the hilarious Tripplehorns, the sleazy couple the Fosters impersonate, and unbilled Ray Liotta as a mob boss who gets in on the “fun.”
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio is faithfully presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Filmed with the Genesis digital camera, the look is clean and impressively sharp throughout. Since most of the action takes place at night, black levels are especially important to the movie, and the black levels here are a bit inconsistent. They are always at least above average but only occasionally reach the really inky depths that make the picture truly dimensional. Flesh tones are accurately conveyed with color saturation more than adequate. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix for much of the movie appears to be one for a typical comedy: frontcentric with little spread into the surrounds except for the music and only minimal use of the LFE channel. However, once that frenetic car chase involving half of the Manhattan police department begins, the entire surround soundfield takes off and we get the kind of immersive experience the entire film should have been offering. (The sounds of New York City nightlife aren't exploited at all.) The movie’s noisy climax also engages both the fronts and the rears to good effect.
The disc’s audio commentary is by producer-director Shawn Levy. He chatters away constantly throughout the film about where the idea for the movie came from (his own marriage) and his great enthusiasm for the gallery of stars who appear in the movie. The commentary is only present for the theatrical version of the movie.
Both the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie are available for choosing from the main menu. I watched the 101-minute extended version of the film. Both versions have the exact same number of chapters, so likely the extended scenes on the Blu-ray bonus features were simply added back in to make the longer running time of the movie.
All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 480i.
The gag reel runs for 5 ¾ minutes.
“Directing Off Camera” finds director Shawn Levy coaching actors through various scenes verbally to get the movements he wants. This runs 3 ¾ minutes.
“Date Night PSAs” are three tongue-in-cheek public service announcements by Steve Carell and Tina Fey urging viewers to see the movie. They run a total of 2 minutes though the viewer may watch each one individually.
“Directing 301 with Shawn Levy” is the disc’s lengthiest bonus: 21 ¾ minutes detailing the scouting, set-up, and shooting of one particular scene through the long night hours barely finishing at dawn.
There are four deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in one 5 ¾-minute group.
There are four extended scenes which may be viewed individually or in one 10 ½-minute bunch.
The stars of the film discuss their worst disaster dates in a forgettable 4 ¾-minute vignette.
“Steve and Tina Camera Tests” finds the two stars against a neutral backdrop in various wardrobe for the movie posing with various expressions which ended up being used in both the poster and billboard marketing (and on the cover of this Blu-ray package).
“Alt City” are the outtakes shown during the final credits of the two stars ad-libbing during various scenes. It runs 1 ¾ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc is enhanced with BD-Live which contains two items of note: Live Lookup which allows real time information on actors in various scenes from the imdb, and an exclusive interview with Carell and Fey (basically the two actors horsing around) which lasts for 3 ½ minutes.
The disc also contains trailers for Predators, Our Family Wedding, Knight & Day, Hot Tub Time Machine, Just Wright, Modern Family: Season One, and the Fox drama series available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The second disc in the case is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
It’s not a total loss. Date Night contains some funny lines and some funny comic bits when it isn’t wearing itself out from the sheer exuberance of its frenzied execution. The Blu-ray contains a pleasing video and audio presentation and would probably make an okay date night offering for couples looking for something light and frivolous.