[Happy 5th Birthday!] Date Night (2010)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Mark Wahlberg

Screenplay: Josh Klausner

88 mins. Rated PG-13 for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference.

 

Steve Carell (TV’s The Office, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and Tina Fey (TV’s Saturday Night Live, This is Where I Leave You) are comedic powerhouses with great chemistry, and in Date Night, from director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), they get the chance to play with it, even with the screenplay’s excessive shortcomings.

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Carell and Fey play the Fosters, Phil and Claire, and they need a new spark of romance in their lives. Their friends are getting divorced from a lack of love and they desperately want a date night to change it all, so when the tables are booked at the new restaurant, they take the table reserved for the absent Tripplehorns and enjoy their night. That is, until a case of mistaken identity leads to a seedy underworld of bad cops, worse mobsters, and a missing flash drive containing some very dangerous content and the Fosters have more on their plates than a missing spark.

Carell and Fey have tremendous chemistry and play so well off of each other, while director Levy controls the camera nicely lobbing back and forth between action and comedy. We also get some great cameo work from Mark Wahlberg (Boogie Nights, The Gambler), James Franco, Mila Kunis, and more.

The biggest issue here is from screenwriter Josh Klausner (Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter, The 4th Floor) and his disappointing script. It has a nice general outline; there are laughs here and action there, but rarely do the two meet on equal ground (the dual-car car chase is an exception) which doesn’t give the leads much to do to flash their creative abilities.

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The leads perform quite admirable and carry the film much better than most others could, which help make Date Night a worthy view of a film, even if it suffers from pitfalls of a less-than-worthy screenplay.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum, click here.

For my review of Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, click here.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Alain Chabat, Robin Williams

Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

105 mins. Rated PG for mild action and brief language.

I avoided the sequel to Night at the Museum like the plague. I enjoyed the original film but thought to myself that a sequel can only harm that. There couldn’t be any possible way for the sequel to be anything new. Literally, the title says it all. It’s just another night at the museum, right?

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Not exactly.

Sure, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is more of the same, but it takes the original premise and expands immensely on it, providing a little of the repetition, but a lot of new fun that makes it comparable to the original.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, Zoolander, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) has taken his inventing career to the next level, creating all manner of As Seen On TV that you see on the endcaps in stores across the nation. He has essentially put his past in the Museum of Natural History behind him, but that changes when he gets a call from Jedediah (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Inherent Vice) telling him that Dexter the Capuchin Monkey had stolen the Tablet that brings the exhibits to life at night and it has been moved to the Smithsonian Museum where all heck has run loose, and it’s now up to Larry and his cadre of walking talking exhibits including Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society) and Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams, Man of Steel, Big Eyes) to take on the evil and now alive again Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria, TV’s The Simpsons, The Smurfs 2) who thinks the Tablet belongs to him.

I loved all the ways that Battle of the Smithsonian expanded the universe created by the first film. From the talking bobbleheaded Einsteins in the gift shop to the paintings that Larry and Amelia get caught up in, this is a well-thought sequel with several new avenues for adventures. It does tread some of the same waters as the original, but does so with enough flair that it’s more forgivable. Director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, This is Where I Leave You) continues to stylishly supply action/comedy at full-tilt and it seems like the new characters like Ivan the Terrible (Christopher Guest, This is Spinal Tap, The Invention of Lying) have great chemistry with our returning players.

As always, the cinematography isn’t anything to sing to the mountaintops, and the film might run on a little too long for its own good, but Levy’s work behind the camera keep the film light-hearted and moving along.

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As far as sequels go, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian could have been better (I’m still a little curious about where Carla Gugino went) but it stands up as a lot of fun that adds some new fun and sends up its predecessor nicely.

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Night at the Museum, click here.

Night at the Museum (2006)

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Director: Shawn Levy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Robin Williams

Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

108 mins. Rated PG for mild action, language and brief rude humor.

 

As 2014 comes to a close, and the final film featuring Robin Williams is soon to be released, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. With that in mind, I decided to look back at the original film.

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Night at the Museum features Ben Stiller (Zoolander, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) as Larry Daley, a failing inventor out of his luck and looking for a job. That is, until he gets a break in the form of a position as a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History. The only catch is, everything in the museum comes to life at night thanks to a mysterious tablet. Now, with the help of a wax Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society), Larry has to protect the natural order of the museum and defend it from the forces trying to get their hands on the tablet.

Ben Stiller is a lot of fun in this movie. It happens to be a comedy that is more focused than a lot of Stiller’s less-than-stellar work. He does get great help from Carla Gugino (Watchmen, Man of Steel) who is largely wasted on a bit role, as well as support from legends Dick Van Dyke (TV’s Diagnosis: Murder, Curious George), Mickey Rooney (The Fox and the Hound, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Bill Cobbs (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Muppets), but the film really rests of the shoulders of a strong screenplay and the masterful handling by director Shawn Levy (Real Steel, This is Where I Leave You).

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The CG effects are strong and still look pretty good some eight years later, and the films jokes largely continue to land (with the exception of a few noticeable improvs from Stiller). I just plain had a lot of fun watching this movie. It is zany and yet smart and makes great usage of an interesting plot device. All in all, Night at the Museum is a wonderful film for audiences of all ages and it has the thrills and laughs to keep it going the entire runtime.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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