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dir Shawn Levy
scr Josh Klausner
prd Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
with Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P Henson, Jimmi Simpson, Common, William Fichtner, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo
release US 9.Apr.10, UK 23.Apr.10
10/US Fox 1h28
Doesn't own a shirt: Fey, Carrel and Wahlberg
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The presence of Carell and Fey lifts this comedy far beyond what it could have been. Their sharp improvisational skills give us a terrific look at a slightly tired marriage, even as the plot gets increasingly trite.
Phil and Claire (Carell and Fey) are a typically frazzled New Jersey suburban couple with two lively kids and no real time to connect with each other. Even their regular date nights seem to get easily derailed. Then they plan an evening in the city, which takes a surprise twist when they're mistakenly cornered by a couple of gun-pointing thugs (Simpson and Common) who are working for a notorious mob boss (Liotta). Now on the run, they seek help from a well-connected old contact (Wahlberg), while a cop (Henson) is tenaciously on their tails.
Levy keeps things moving with direction that's efficient and unobtrusive, although the action scenes are staged with a surprising inventiveness. Meanwhile, Klausner's script makes some telling observations even when the narrative wobbles. But it's the cast that makes this worth seeing, from Carrell and especially Fey's impeccable timing to the gang of up-for-it A-list supporting actors, all of whom gleefully dive into their roles and keep us laughing.
Clearly much of the dialog was improvised, although the closing-credits outtakes show how much funnier it could have been without the constraints of the story and studio. Yes, there's a loud groan whenever the plot needs to be pushed into the next ludicrous set piece, and the whole thing feels far too violent for a comedy. But there are genius moments along the way, including Fey's relentless flirtation with Wahlberg, Franco and Kunis' hysterically obtuse low-lifes, and the scene in which Fey and Carell engage in some media-crowd roleplay to get into a restaurant (although their stripper pole routine is a bit embarrassing).
But what makes the film more than just fluff is its gently astute portrayal of a couple who has let the fire go out of their relationship, even though they're still very happy together. It's a little difficult to imagine the inventively hilarious Carrell and Fey as people who have trouble finding that spark, but it's certainly good fun watching Phil and Claire rediscover it.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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