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After a couple of friends announce a surprise divorce Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) plan an extra special night on the town in an effort to rekindle their own relationship. Unfortunately they neglect to make a reservation, and find that their restaurant of choice is jam packed, with a long waiting list. In a moment of desperation they take another couple’s reservation. Unfortunately again, the couple is wanted for ransoming valuable information, and now Phil and Claire are fighting for their lives against crooked cops and gangsters with large guns.

Date Night: Extended Edition
Date Night is the kind of ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ comedy that can really work when it fully embraces a hard R-rating, and isn’t afraid to go as dark as Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. Even this special extended edition barely crests the PG-13 rating, which leaves it somewhere between ‘redundant’ and ‘fluffy’. Sure, there’s an ‘f-word’ (oooooo), a strip club scene, and things threaten to get violent at any minute, but there’s never a real chance of someone getting gravely injured, or the comedy getting too dark for the middle-American housewives seeing the movie on their own date nights. Director Shawn Levy has become the go to guy for non-offensive, gee gosh, no sharp edges entertainment, following a series of well enough made, but genuinely bad movies like Just Married, Night at the Museum, and the Cheaper by the Dozen and Pink Panther remakes. Basically he’s filling a void left by Christopher Columbus, who went off to make mediocre fantasy films and musicals (at least he’s pressing himself, right). Date Night fits nicely in Levy’s oeuvre. It’s sweet natured, ultra familiar, and blatantly placating, and that’s just the way the prospective audience wants it. Ironically enough, the theme of the film is breaking routine, getting out there, and trying something new. Perhaps this was intended as a meta-textual, high concept joke, but I kind of doubt it. It’s still a little funny though.

There are pleasant spots, and satisfying gags, such as a brief exchange about the meaning of ‘literally’ during a book club meeting, a cheap laugh involving a slow moving boat, a few offhanded remarks (‘Oh my God this phone smells like urine’), and a collection of scene stealing cameos. The cameos and supporting cast are the big reason to see the film, assuming you weren’t already a big enough fan of the concept or leads. Nothing against Carell or Fey, but they’re straight-men with goofy tendencies work better thanks to Mark Wahlberg, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mila Kunis and J. B. Smoove. I also appreciated the relationship Carell and Fey create between their characters. Instead of bickering, or delving into too much unnecessary melodrama, the couple has a charming, good-natured, yet strained relationship. Even the goofy moments of jealousy are played pretty softly. This is roughly the same approach Scorsese and Griffin Dunne took with After Hours, though for only one character. Had the Fosters been one iota less likable it’d be hard to care about any of this average

Date Night: Extended Edition

Video


Date Night comes to Blu-ray in a Shawn Levy-friendly 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with Shawn Levy friendly warm gels and grading, and Shawn Levy friendly high contrast blacks. The film was shot using the Panavision Genesis HD camera (according to the IMDb.com), which doesn’t appear to do the same high quality job of those awesome Red cameras (which are apparently way cheaper?). The image quality is reasonably sharp (it has nothing on those all-digital, Red shot Crank movies), and the candy colours are bright enough to go beyond the capabilities of standard definition DVD, but there’s an artificial, shot on video sheen to everything. There’s also a whole lot of digital grain, which actually appears to increase with brighter lighting, and warmer colours. The grain runs the gamut from green bits in flesh tones, to white flecks in black elements. Now grain doesn’t really bother me as much as it does other viewers, so I’ll take it back to that artificial sheen. There’s quite a bit of ghosting, and blurring during brisk movements, more than I’d expect from an HD shot major motion picture. Overall I’d call this an average transfer with some unfortunate artefacts.

Date Night: Extended Edition

Audio


Another solid DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack from Fox. Date Night isn’t nearly as loud, or aggressively mixed as Levy’s effects heavy Night at the Museum films, but the dialogue is clear and centred, and the other channels aren’t wasted space. The closest we get to genuinely worthy directional stereo and surround sound moments include an obnoxious alarm system, Mark Wahlberg’s computer system, a few gun shots, and a decent, but short-lived car chase. The musical choices get off to a strong start with The Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, but quickly defaults to sappy droopy-eyed pop, and overly familiar oldie stuff. Christophe Beck’s score, which is reasonably eclectic based on the on-screen action, undercuts the track’s other aural effects a little more softly than likely intended. There’s a bit of a nice LFE bump from the music, and the gunshots and car chase feature quite a bit of pump.

Date Night: Extended Edition

Extras


Extras begin with a solo commentary track with director Shawn Levy, available only on the theatrical version of the film. Levy discusses story structure and themes more than expected, and overall the track acts very much as a lesson plan in how to make an unconfusing, audience pleasing comedy. This discussion often veers into the obvious (verging on narration even), and there were a couple moments I wanted to crawl into my TV and throttle Levy for discussing certain plot points as if they were some kind of incredible narrative inventions that hadn’t been used hundreds of times before, but overall the track is pretty intelligent. Levy doesn’t maintain his overall efficiency levels, but his hyperbole is amusing. Minus one point for using the word ‘literally’ when he means figuratively. Actually, minus two, because the movie even makes fun of the misuse of ‘literally’.

Next up is a collection of four deleted scenes (5:50, SD), followed by an alternate take reel entitled ‘Alt City’ (01:50, SD), and four extended scenes (10:30, SD), all fortunately not already included in the extended version of the film. ‘Directing 301’ (21:50, SD) is a general trip around the set with director Shawn Levy, who walks us through the various people he interacts with on an average day. It’s speedy, but features some informative interview blips, and a decent look at Levy’s process. The extras are wrapped up with ‘Disaster Dates’ (04:40, SD), a series of interviews with the cast about bad dates, ‘Directing Off Camera’ (03:50, SD), a bit of Levy’s direction during a take, ‘Steve and Tina’s Camera Tests’ (3:10, SD), a gag reel (05:50, SD), three ‘PSAs’ (02:20, SD), a trailer, and trailers for other Fox releases.

Date Night: Extended Edition

Overall


Date Night is a decent block of sort of amusing fluff from the new Christopher Columbus, director Shawn Levy. The movie features a few good laughs, some solid performances, especially from the supporting cast, and Levy manages a reasonably impressive car chase, but nothing rises above and beyond forgettable, low ambition entertainment. The only person I’m going to suggest a ‘must see’ to is a friend of mine with a huge crush on Tina Fey, who will die for the scenes of her in a stripper teddy. This Blu-ray release looks pretty rocky thanks to the apparent limitations of the digital HD cameras used, which create a lot of grain, motion blur and occasional ghosting, but sounds fine in DTS-HD audio, and features plenty of extras for fans, including a decent director’s commentary, and a collection of deleted/alternate/extended scenes.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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