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.
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th April 2010
Box Office USA: $98.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $152.3M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 21 Laps Entertainment, Media Magik Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 148 Rotten: 73
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Shawn Levy
Screenwriter: Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell as Phil Foster, Tina Fey as Claire Foster, Mark Wahlberg as Holbrooke, Taraji P. Henson as Detective Arroyo, Jimmi Simpson as Armstrong, William Fichtner as DA Frank Crenshaw, Leighton Meester as Katy, Kristen Wiig as Haley Sullivan, Mark Ruffalo as Brad Sullivan, James Franco as Taste, Mila Kunis as Whippit, Olivia Munn as Claw Hostess, Common as Collins, Gal Gadot as Natanya, Jon Bernthal as Young Man