When Date Night has energy, it can be hilarious. The film’s highlight, a two-car accident that leaves the vehicles hooked to each other, then resulting in a chase around New York, is priceless. The cab driver (J.B. Smoove) hooked to Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) Foster produces some priceless and expressive screams as they zip around, trying to avoid the potentially crooked cops who are after them.
It’s a simple premise, with the Fosters seeking a night on the town away from the kids and ending up trapped in a case of mistaken identity when stealing a reservation at a high class restaurant. This leads to those few chase scenes, where guns are fired and the comedic leads are forced to react. An early escape attempt has them utilizing a boat, apparently one with a broken motor, delaying their desperately needed high speed getaway.
What doesn’t work is the downtime, in which Josh Klausner’s script repetitiously uses the “out of touch” routine for some dialogue-driven laughs that aren’t there. The cast doesn’t save it because the material rarely rises above mediocre. Phil and Claire say stupid things, trying to sound mean or tough, and completely fall flat. Whatever works is quickly extinguished by the desperation. Running gags are equally tiresome, from the shirtless Mark Wahlberg gag that never ends (really), to Tina Fey slamming into open desk drawers.
There is some mild family drama, a rather inopportune debate inside a stolen Audi (this after the Kindle product placement) about the couples relationship that makes you wonder if they actually want to escape from the people trying to kill them.
Date Night doesn’t try for any cheap drama. If anything, it deserves credit for taking care of the Foster’s kids in one scene and then never having to deal with them again. The danger lies strictly with the adults, no cheap emotional shots here. It certainly keeps the movie consistent, following the Fosters in their increased desperation across seemingly very live areas of New York as they look for a way out. There’s a lot of potential for fun here, especially considering all involved, that never feels capitalized on.
Date Night was shot digitally, and boy does it look the part. The amount of digital motion blur on display here is grating, certainly the source material but worth mentioning. Facial detail is never consistent in any way, ranging from marginal at 2:45 (Carell) to completely smoothed over inside the offices at 34:53. The added resolution of the format only comes into play in the environments, which generally resolve minute details such as stray books lying around or street texture.
It’s not that no high fidelity exists within the transfer. It does. Many close-ups of Carell are fairly well defined, the final moments inside a diner in the early morning (1:20:49) being especially clean and rich. At times, either the nature of the camera utilized (Panavision Genesis, which can produce some great looking movies) or the possibility of digital airbrushing is gratingly obvious, such as 43:45 inside the car. The couple is so processed and smoothed over as to look alien.
Noise is fairly heavy throughout, although like almost everything related to this effort, completely lacking in consistency. At times, the clean digital sheen is apparent without fault, and other times the image is abundant with dancing artifacts, shots of Fey getting ready for the night out at 11:25 rather awful. If anything, the AVC encode itself doesn’t seem to do much harm.
Flesh tones are quite warm, rarely natural, although not offensively so. Worse is the complete loss of shadow detail, black crush first noted inside the man cave at 9:15, before obliterating Carell’s suit at 50:08. It seriously looks like his arms are one piece connected to his body.
Thankfully, a surprisingly robust and well calibrated DTS-HD effort is quite the stunner. The highlight is that car crash and resulting chase around 58:17. The aggressiveness of the mix, from the wonderful track side to side in the stereos to the pans front to back are wonderfully immersive. This is precision stuff, mixed perfectly to keep track of quite a bit of movement.
The boat house, around 24-minutes in, produces the first shot of the clean, deep, low-end use as the building collapses around the criminals. The thud extends deep into the subwoofer with satisfying results. Music inside a club near the end of the film carries some weight to it, again quite smooth and clear.
The finale produces additional low-end work, a helicopter swirling overhead, the roar of the engines quite effective (the same goes for the Audi). It hovers above throughout the scene, always contained in the proper channel, adding to the ambiance, another thing this mix does well. Restaurants and other crowded areas (especially in the heart of the city) are quite lively.
Dialogue does falter in a few spots, such as 27:45 which seems to have been recorded in a very empty studio. On the subway at 1:04:10, the same issue happens again, this time with an added scratchy quality. It’s minor stuff.
This review is based on a rental exclusive with no extras since Fox has not provided a review copy. Should a retail edition be obtained, this review will be updated.
Note: Screen shots appear brighter than the Blu-ray itself. Black levels are significantly better than they are here. We’re looking for a fix so this doesn’t happen in the future.