Date Night

(USA 2010)

I love me some Tina Fey, I usually like Steve Carell, and I certainly won’t complain if Mark Wahlberg is shirtless in every scene. Add James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, and even Common, and you’d expect to have a winner on your hands. Right? Wrong.

Date Night is a cute adventure film, but it’s certainly not an adventurous undertaking. It’s formulaic, predictable Hollywood milquetoast aimed at married suburban couples—director Shawn Levy’s specialty. Fey and Carell play the Fosters, a normal, middle-aged, overworked New Jersey couple whose longtime marriage has lost its mojo. They do date night periodically to keep things alive—it doesn’t seem to be working. One night, they decide to be adventurous and head to Manhattan. When they learn that the wait for a table at an exclusively hip restaurant will be a few hours because they don’t have a reservation, they pretend to be another couple, the Tripplehorns, to snag theirs. The Fosters end up with way more excitement than either of them bargained for after a pair of mobsters (Common and Jimmi Simpson) confronts them about a jump drive their boss (Ray Liotta) wants.

Fey and Carell have a sort of chemistry, but it’s benign. They do this thing where they imagine the conversations that patrons at other tables are having—it’s cute and very Seinfeldian. The Maitre D’ (Nick Kroll) is funny because he is such an asshole—in a David Spade way. Other than that, the laughs here are far and few between. The problem isn’t the actors—it’s Josh Klausner’s lame script, which plays out like a bland and weird ripoff of After Hours, Adventures in Babysitting, and True Romance. Date Night has a few good lines and a few good scenes, but not enough to make it funny for very long.

88 minutes
Rated PG-13

(TBS) D+

Here and There [Tamo i ovde]

(USA/Serbia 2010)

I really liked Darko Lungulov’s Monument to Michael Jackson; it’s strange, sublime, melancholy, and witty. Its predecessor, Here and There, is a bit rougher, quieter, and sparser. While not as compelling, it still has enough of what I found intriguing about Monument to Michael Jackson.

Robert (David Thornton) is a broke, floundering, and depressed middle-aged sax player who just got evicted from his apartment in Queens. He hires a mover—how he affords it isn’t clear—who turns out to be Branko (Branislav Trifunovic), a young immigrant from Serbia who wants to get his girlfriend, Ivana (Jelena Mrdja), to the States. Branko proposes a deal. Robert, having no other prospects on the horizon, accepts: he agrees to go to Belgrade, marry Ivana, and bring her back—for a fee.

In Belgrade, Robert meets a few interesting characters—Ivana’s angry brother, Mirko (Goran Radakovic); a neighbor, Tosha (Fedja Stojanovic), who helps Robert score beer and find his way around; and Branko’s mother, Olga (Mirjana Karanovic), who puts him up in Branko’s bedroom at her apartment. She doesn’t know the reason why Robert is there. The plan doesn’t go as intended, and Robert is stuck in Belgrade as Branko is up a creek without a van in New York. Robert undergoes an awakening as he and Olga hit it off after a rocky start. Will his deal with Branko ruin everything?

Here and There is a tale of two cities, of sorts: set between New York City and Belgrade, it shows that urban life isn’t all that different from place to place—we all need to hustle to survive. Each character stands out in large part because the actors give them such complexity. Antone Pagan as savvy mechanic Jose Escobar is particularly memorable. Cyndi Lauper, who wrote and performed the film’s fine title song, makes a cameo as essentially herself. Lungulov works in some nice flashes of comedy to offset the bleakness in his characters’ lives. Here and There shows a talented filmmaker in development.

85 minutes
Not rated

(Home via iTunes) B-

http://www.hereandtherethemovie.com