In 1970’s The Out-of-Towners, Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, a conservative Midwest couple, take a trip to New York so Jack can interview for a job. They get there a night early and go out to dinner. Things turn very wrong almost immediately, resulting in one of my favorite comedies.
Here, Tina Fey and Steve Carell comprise a boring New Jersey couple who want to take a night out on the town in New York. The first ten minutes live up to that premise because it is not only boring, it is trite. There is the inevitable slice of life dialogue among Fey and her women friends that populate the worst of the chick flicks, about things like menstruating women. Had I not had to stay to write a review, I would have been out of there.
Influencing that decision would have been the fact that this film is directed by Shawn Levy, who has been responsible for some of the worst films I’ve seen this century, including both Night at the Museum horrors, Pink Panther 2, which makes my bottom 10, and Cheaper by the Dozen. Despite the appallingly low quality of these films, some did well box office. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, for example, is 113th on the all time worldwide box office list at $413 million.
But after Fey and Carell get all dolled up and con their way into a table at a trendy Manhattan restaurant, their trip into the city rivals the one taken by Lemmon and Dennis 40 years ago. Everything goes awry.
I thought Lemmon and Dennis were incomparable in creating the chaos they had to endure, but Fey and Carell come close. They have a good supporting cast, including Mark Wahlberg, who appears shirtless throughout (requiring lots of body makeup to cover up his numerous tattoos) which should appeal to women; Common and Jimmi Simpson as bad guys; Ray Liotta as a gangster (surprise, surprise!); Taraji P. Henson (Oscar® nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and James Franco and Mila Kunis as a pair of lowlife crooks. While they are all good, the performances of Franco and Kunis are award-quality.
This is a funny, romantic film that had me thanking my lucky stars I’m a film critic because that’s the only thing that kept me in the screening. If you make it past the first 10-15 minutes, you’re in for a good time.