Good day one and all!
Many moons ago CM threw together a wicked cool review of two films at the same time. Adventureland & Zombieland was a match made in heaven; they have the same star and they both have LAND in the title…what more do you want?
Unfortunately the films chosen for my Double Review don’t have as direct a connection (other than that they are both comedies) however I think there is enough in both of them that means I can tie it all together in one neat little package. So without further ado; you’re welcome, and let’s begin…
Perhaps mistakenly I am going to play my hand early on and give you my overall recommendation about seeing Date Night and Extract; the truth is you may as well only see one of them. I saw both this week and came out of each feeling exactly the same, the fact is that formally and tonally they share the same airspace and in wanting to help my discerning fan base keep their wallets in check I can honestly say that you’d be as well to flip a coin and see one or the other, and then rest assured that you didn’t miss much by avoiding the alternative.
I wish the following didn’t sound so diplomatic but it can’t be helped: I honestly couldn’t decide which film was the best (actually I can but I’ll save that reveal until the end – keeps you reading doesn’t it?) or more accurately in regards to these two films ‘the least bad’. But let me stop tiptoeing around and get into specifics.
Plot really doesn’t matter for either Date Night or Extract so you aren’t getting a synopsis from me this time around; just rest assured that both films hit the 90 minute mark by meandering through cause and effect style scenes before wrapping everything up in under 5 minutes and hitting you with the credits.
Both films have got high quality casts at their disposal, utilised in very different ways. Tina Fey could read The Da Vinci Code for an hour and a half and I would still think it was hilarious and worth buying on DVD, she’s that good. Funny, clumsy, accessible and not too bad in the looks department if you ask me or any other warm blooded male, she makes every joke count (and even saves a few dodgy ones from the tumbleweed fate lesser comediennes might produce upon delivery). Her relationship with Steve Carell is believable and it’s that which drives the film and keep s the ridiculousness of the plot in check; despite the near impossible series of events on show the core of Date Night is a man and wife having fun with one another again. Carell too is incredibly watchable, not afraid to make himself look idiotic for the sake of a good joke.
The problem with Date Night, other than the massive one that I’ll get to in a minute, is that the rest of the film is peppered with cameo after cameo, and there is really no other substantial character to support the main story. Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis, MARK RUFFALO, Will Fitchner and a few others all share scenes with FeCar (does that work?) that send them back off on their adventures and allow the cameo-er to say a few funny things. That’s fine on a case by case basis, but sometimes in films like this I wish they would trim the fat a bit and combine each character into just one role, so that a decent supporting character can be created (want a great example? Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly: terrible movie but he is hilarious in it). Much was made of Marky Mark’s appearance in the film, a performance that parodies much of our assumptions about the man with the golden underpants and AMAZING BODY. But again, he’s in it for 5 minutes and spends most of that time just watching Carell and Fey talk. At least he’s a good listener.
Extract falls foul of the same problem; there are far too many supporting players in the film with not enough substance of their own. Great actors like JK Simmons, Kristen Wiig (again), David Koechner, Clifton Collins Jr and even Gene Simmons float in and out of the narrative without really impacting the trials that Joel Reynolds (played with typical warmth and every-man-ish-ability by Jason Bateman) endures.
A lot is made of Mike Judge’s cult status as a filmmaker who holds the mirror up to everyday life, the events and non-events that define a working week. Extract makes no sweeping statements regarding big business, drugs, community, power or monogamy; however each of these issues is represented in the film. The position of the writer/director instead appears to be “These things happen, who are we to judge?” (and his surname is Judge – ha! Just me? Fair enough).
Quite the opposite, Date Night’s director Shawn Levy is regarded as something of a hack director, his films scraping the bottom of the comedy barrel and floating by on mediocrity that is diluted by star power. I don’t want to be too critical here because I really like Cheaper by the Dozen however I have to admit that critics might have a point. Other than the performance and likability of Fey and Carell, Date Night, excuse my French, is absolute shit. The premise is ridiculous, the execution is derivative and one scene in particular – two cars that are locked together manage to negotiate the streets of New York- makes no sense whatsoever. I’m all for ‘suspension of disbelief’ but sometimes one finds themselves looking at the screen and wanting to shout “No! That could NOT happen. The steering columns of those cars would not allow for so clean a turn”.
So anyway, rant over, and review over. I hope you enjoyed it. If you manage to see either of these films and want your say then post away at the end of this review and tell me if I got it right or completely wrong, or indeed if I simply managed to write a lot without really saying much.
I leave you with my final judgement on which of the two films is actually better. Prepare yourselves…
Why? Because Ben Affleck is in it. It’s really that easy for me sometimes. In fact, I’m going to go and watch Daredevil right now.