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Date Night Blu-ray + Digital Copy Review

Date Night movie poster Date Night

Theatrical Release: April 9, 2010 / Running Time: 88 Minutes (Theatrical), 101 Minutes (Unrated) / Rating: PG-13 (Theatrical), Unrated

Director: Shawn Levy / Writers: Josh Klausner

Cast: Steve Carell (Phil Foster), Tina Fey (Claire Foster), Mark Wahlberg (Holbrooke), Taraji P. Henson (Detective Arroyo), Jimmi Simpson (Armstrong), Common (Collins), William Fichtner (DA Frank Crenshaw), Leighton Meester (Katy), Kristen Wiig (Haley Sullivan), Mark Ruffalo (Brad Sullivan), James Franco (Taste), Mila Kunis (Whippit), Bill Burr (Detective Walsh), Jonathan Morgan Heit (Oliver Foster), Savannah Argenti (Charlotte Foster), Nick Kroll (Claw Maitre D'), Olivia Munn (Claw Hostess), will.i.am (Himself)

Buy Date Night from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital Copy • DVD

By Aaron Wallace

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are the Brangelina power couple of Must See TV, each the respective head of last decade's trendiest sitcoms. With their single-camera shows having commanded NBC's coveted Thursday night lineup for four years now, pairing the όber-funny stars on the big screen feels overdue. Then again, despite their buzz factors, neither "30 Rock" nor "The Office" put up big Nielsen numbers and both stars have had rocky track records as Hollywood headliners.
Those facts cast a shadow of uncertainty over Date Night, the screwball comedy that at last unites Michael Scott and Liz Lemon in theatrical matrimony. In the end, though, the duo lived up to its "as seen on TV" guarantee, with a decent audience size, mixed but largely favorable reviews, and laughs borne of irresistible awkwardness.

Carell plays Phil Foster, an overworked tax attorney and spouse of hapless, frantic realtor Claire (Fey). With their hectic schedules leaving little time for love in their lives, the two pledge a single night out on the town for a nice dinner and some R&R in the luxury of New York City. When a late start spoils their shot at a table in Manhattan's newest hot spot, Phil assumes the identity of a no-show party of two, helping himself to their reservation. As it turns out, the absent patrons had a very good reason for skipping town: the thugs they're blackmailing are on their way to the restaurant for vengeance... with guns in tow. It isn't long before Phil's white lie thrusts this boring married couple's simple date night into the middle of city-wide criminal corruption.

Oh no! Erin's calling to say David Wallace and Jack Donaghy are on their way to bust these hooky-playing supervisors.

Early on, Date Night starts to stink of convention. Like an air freshener at the end of a road trip, however, the clever script and acting talent soon overpower the underlying stench that never really goes away. The mistaken identity premise is older than anyone in the cast and yet director Shawn Levy serves it up like this is 1934 and he's found something new we've got to see. The same generic approach stings several of the otherwise important characters too, namely the big name bad guys: Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta), Collins (rapper Common), and Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson). All three are two-dimensional, carbon-copied archetypes, supposedly lawless masterminds on the one hand but stupid enough not to catch the exceedingly apparent mix-up. Even in a comedy that takes itself none too seriously, that's asking the audience to swallow more than it should.

Despite its strict adherence to formula at base level, the movie takes some remarkable strides elsewhere. The build-up to the first twist is astonishingly, refreshingly lackadaisical. The plot makes its way to that first pivotal restaurant scene with all the hot-footed gallop of a vintage Western, choosing instead to invest a little time in its characters (a dangerous idea in contemporary cinema, I know). By the time the Fosters are imperiled, the audience is given ample reason to really care about them coming out alright.

Claire and Phil are also revealed to be very funny people in their own quiet, dorky, middle class white people kind of way. That reliable humor goes with them as they wind up in places they have no business being, their good-natured, unassuming wit amplifying exponentially under pressure. The script's biggest laughs emanate from the palpable affection and frustration the husband and wife feel for each other, a pleasant diversion from the force-fed raunch of today's more successful comedies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carell and Fey have some of the most appealing screen chemistry in the business.

TV period dramedy veterans Mila Kunis and James Franco join forces for a knee-slapping cameo in Date Night.

Also dishing out the funny are unforgettable cameos by James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Mark Wahlberg. The former two break in from left field with a show-stealing scene that makes a case for a spin-off with Franco and Kunis front and center. Wahlberg plays a bigger part, his suavity in the role of Claire's muscle-bound ex-client giving Steve Carell great material for subtle reactive acting. Levy also gets props for one of the most creative car chase scenes I've come across.

Date Night doesn't live it up to its full potential but delivers much more than its throwaway romcom title might suggest. Fox's Blu-ray presents an optional extended edition and for once, I'm declaring the fuller version a clear winner over the original theatrical cut. While the unrated option is slightly more explicit, it contains thirteen minutes of truly worthwhile material that is not at all garishly worked in throughout the entire film. This is a rare occasion, indeed, where the original version falls short and the unrated edition feels like a much fuller, more satisfying director's cut.

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Buy Date Night Blu-ray + Digital Copy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

2.35:1 Widescreen
DTS-HD MA 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 10, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided discs (BD-50 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Blue Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Theatrical & Unrated DVD ($29.98 SRP)
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The Blu-ray presents the movie in its original 2.35:1 widescreen. Date Night was made with a digital camera and it shows. Nearly the entire story takes place outside at night, not a welcome setting for the less-than-sharp look of digital video. I can't see many people having a problem with the picture but there's heavier grain here than in most contemporary productions and it's noticeable. None of this is the fault of the Blu-ray, of course. That's just how the movie was made. Given the constraints of its production, Date Night still looks pretty good overall and is imminently watchable. Just don't expect your screen to pop the way it does on reference-quality Blu-ray discs.

There's only one audio track: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. First and foremost a comedy, the movie's heavy of dialogue and so most of the sound emanates from the front channels. When the music and action kick in, so do the rear speakers. The sound presentation isn't dazzling, but no one should expect that from a comedy. The track gets the job done with crystal-clear and potent sound. Subtitles are available in three varieties: English for the deaf and hard of hearing, Spanish, and French. Bonus features not subtitled.

Phil Foster (Steve Carell) feels a little intimidated by Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg)'s shoulder muscles, while Claire (Tina Fey) feels something... else.


While the Date Night Blu-ray doesn't boast the largest menu of bonus features I've seen (not even close), the mid-sized serving does include some of the most entertaining. To access them, you'll need to move through an awkward (but otherwise lively) menu design that requires you to choose the version of the movie you wish to see first, followed by the proper main menu screen.
The bonus features are the same either way, except the Extended Version menu offers one additional item, discussed below. Unfortunately, most of the extras are presented in Standard Definition (SD) alone.

Aside from the extended cut itself, the most substantial bonus feature is a feature-length audio commentary by director Shawn Levy, available only on the theatrical cut (but accessible from either main menu screen). Levy has a great speaking voice for this kind of thing and achieves the difficult feat of maintaining engaging commentary throughout an entire solo track. His comments are frank, revealing, and usually screen-specific. He also has a great sixth sense for choosing the right, few moments to stop talking and let the original audio play.

After that is a gallery of four deleted scenes (SD), available individually or all together on one reel (they run 5:47 in total). They range from good to really good but all four are definitely worth watching. Unfortunately, there's no commentary from Levy to explain why they were left out.

"Alt City" (1:48) (SD) is a reel of outtakes, all of them pretty funny. The short runtime is further diminished by the considerable overlap between this feature and the outtakes seen in the movie's end credits.

Under the Extended Edition's main menu only, the next bonus feature is a gallery of four extended scenes (SD), available individually or together in a single reel. Running 10:25 in total, there's a lot of overlap between these and the extra footage seen in the unrated cut. Curiously, though, this reel doesn't contain everything added to the longer version of the movie, so it's not an adequate substitute for watching the extended edition.

That's followed by "Directing 301" (21:48) (SD), probably the best supplement on the whole disc. This behind-the-scenes production diary of sorts is fairly brief but still incredibly insightful. Edited with an entertaining pace in mind, the featurette gets viewers really close to the filmmaking action and gives a real taste of what it's like to work on a movie set. Levy is clearly aware of the camera and often directly addresses the Blu-ray viewers at home, keeping them informed as he moves along. I'd say this one is good enough to watch more than once.

"Disaster Dates" (4:43) (SD) is the only fluff piece on the menu but it's a really funny one. The stars of Date Night, right down to a number of the A-list cameos, relay mortifying tales of dates gone wrong from their personal lives and those of their closest friends. There's some hilarious stuff here and it's always nice to see bonus features giving its subjects the breathing room to be laid-back and candid.

"Directing Off Camera" (3:46) (SD) demonstrates Levy's technique of shouting out impromptu instructions to his actors from behind the camera. As the director points out in his commentary, that method was particularly helpful in one of the movie's unforgettable final scenes, where this featurette spends most of its time.

"Steve and Tina Camera Tests" (3:10) (SD) is what it claims to be, excerpts from the headliners' screen tests.
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A good bit of the movie's wardrobe is modeled here and, as Levy discusses briefly, the stills used in the marketing campaign were taken from this early, pre-production shoot.

Next up is a gag reel (5:49) (SD). With an outstanding cast of comedy titans, you can imagine how enjoyable the gags would be -- and they are.

That's followed by a gallery of three faux PSAs (2:02 in total) (SD), where Steve Carell and Tina Fey adopt very serious tones in urging burned out spouses to take a date night of their own. Of course, the solemn demeanor can survive only so long with these two in front of the camera.

In an always-welcome move, Fox has also included the great theatrical trailer (2:25) (HD).

The final bonus feature isn't exactly what I'd call a "bonus". The "Digital Copy 'How To'" (3:35) (HD) is a step-by-step video tutorial for using the disc's digital copy with either iTunes or Windows Media Player and an iPod. Of course, the "How To" means that this set does in fact include a digital copy (SD) on a separate DVD. The Blu-ray disc is also equipped with BD-Live interactivity.

Five previews play automatically when the disc starts up, for Fox DVDs with Digital Copy, Hot Tub Time Machine, Just Wright, "Modern Family" on Blu-ray and DVD, and a general promo for Fox TV series on DVD. None of those are accessible from the main menu. Instead, four different previews are included in a separate Sneak Peek gallery (HD) included in the bonus features sub-menu: Predators, Our Family Wedding, "Best of FX" promo, and Knight & Day.

The discs are packaged in a standard blue keepcase, housed inside a cardboard slipcover with a lenticular cover. The lenticular is rather gaudy looking and blurry but the keepcase itself gladly keeps it cool.

Aside from the Blu-ray/digital copy release, Fox also issued a simultaneous DVD of the film. The DVD is reportedly missing the deleted and extended scenes galleries, the "Disaster Dates" featurette, Steve and Tina's camera tests, and the digital copy, but otherwise offers the same bonus features in standard definition.

The studio engaged in some interesting recasting for "Rush Hour 4."


The Blu-ray might have strived for hi-def supplements, but that gaff notwithstanding, this is a pretty excellent release. While the movie lacks visual clarity thanks to its digital production and fumbles a bit with an exceedingly generic premise, it nevertheless wins out with a clever and heartfelt script and a best-in-the-business cast. Date Night is good for any night, and multiple nights at that.

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Related Reviews:
New: The Joneses • $5 a Day • Death at a Funeral • The Last Song • Cougar Town: The Complete First Season
Starring Steve Carell: Get Smart • Dan in Real Life • Evan Almighty • Horton Hears a Who!
Tina Fey: 30 Rock: Season 3 • Ponyo | Mila Kunis: Family Guy: Volume 8 • Extract | James Franco: Annapolis
The Bounty Hunter • The Spy Next Door • Superbad | Written by Josh Klausner: Shrek the Third
Directed by Shawn Levy: Night at the Museum • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

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Reviewed August 22, 2010.

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