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Steve Carrell and Tina Fey in “Date Night” – Hollywood Movie Roundup

BY KEVIN CRUST

Following last week’s three-for-all, a David-vs.-Goliath match-up takes shape at the box office as NBC’s Thursday night comedy stars go a little screwy on the big screen and could go to #1.

DATE NIGHT

The only major studio release pairs Steve Carrell and Tina Fey as a married couple whose night on the town goes wildly awry. Critically-maligned, but über-successful comedy director Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum,” “The Pink Panther”) strikes again, attempting to mine screwball gold from a script by Josh Klausner (the third and fourth “Shrek” sequels).

Reviews are mixed-to-positive with critics responding to the Carrell-Fey pairing slightly outnumbering those who’d like to tear up the script or revoke Levy’s DGA membership. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times finds humor in the couple as an atypical romantic comedy duo, while Claudia Puig of USA Today admires the film’s plot and pace. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly, Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal and Slate’s Dana Stevens also come down favorably on “Date Night,” although Stevens acknowledges that she’s grading on a curve in a weak year (thus far). The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips points out that it’s “a product substantially inferior to the material routinely finessed” by the stars on their TV shows (which prompts the question, will audiences be willing to go and fork out the bucks when they can stay home and see Fey and Carrell do something better for free?). Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times calls it ” a half-a-loaf comedy,” that leaves you wishing the better parts lasted longer and the movie as a whole was as good as its stars. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott grudgingly admits that the movie is better than most in a typically bad genre (“the marital action comedy”).

With “Clash of the Titans’ ” less than inspiring numbers following last Friday’s opening, “Date Night” has a serious shot at winning the weekend with a gross between $20 and $25 million. The Christian-themed “Letters to God” opens in nearly 900 theaters, but few reviews and figures to do modest business among the faithful .

“DATE NIGHT” TRAILER

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