When I get home from dancing I often want to throw on Stop Making Sense, but like any good concert film, it should be listened to loud. Therefore I often deny myself the neutered version of the experience. The DVD and Blu-ray come with both a studio mix and a live mix. I have tried listening to the studio mix, but I always want to go back to the concert mix, because that’s the experience I want from the film, and I don’t understand how the Studio mix is anything but a side effect.


True story: I’m friends with Shawn Levy.

No, not the director of Date Night, but the Oregonian film critic at large – author of great biographies of Jerry Lewis and Paul Newman – who enjoys an amused relationship with the director who shares his name, as Shawn received a number of emails intended for his other self. The director Levy came up through television, and transitioned from minor hits to major shite comedies. He is the man behind Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther, and the Night at the Museum franchise. My point about Shawn Levy, the critic? He’s one of the good ones. My point about Shawn Levy, the director? He’s one of the bad ones.

Granted, he has a nose for material and good casting – even if the films themselves are at best forgetably  passable. He’s had a solid run of hits, and Date Night should continue his streak, albeit not with the same gusto as a Museum picture. What is most interesting about Date Night is that its stars are the biggest draws for NBC’s Thursday night. Tina Fey is not really a movie star, she’s still testing the waters of cinema, with a hit early on as a writer and co-star of Mean Girls, and a modest success as the lead in Baby Mama. Steve Carell was a Second City veteran who did some stints as support for Dana Carvey and on The Daily Show, until he blew up with both Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But the latter came at the same time he was starting The Office. At first it looked like that the American remake was doomed to failure, but after a rocky first season the show found its voice, and has settled into comfortable slightly above average television. And yet Carell has maintained a cinematic presence in such films as Get Smart.

to be fair, television and cinema have always had cross pollination. Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, and most of the biggest comic performer of note for the last three decades got their start on the small screen (Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, etc. etc.). The secret to success, to transitioning seems to be leaving your show behind. The idea being that people don’t want to pay for what they can get for free. Such doomed cinematic performers as Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and John Laroquette (and the list goes on) never crossed over after having firmly established themselves in a role of a hit TV show. The secret is to use TV as a launching pad, but not stay too long – you’re either Cousin Balki for life or relegated to ensemble work.

But Date Night - which the trailer suggests has terrible digital photography – should open, if only because it’s the only film of the week, and there’s not too much comedy going right now. People like the leads, and the premise is clever enough. Ironically, the most ghettoized genres – rom-coms and horror films – are some of the rare places where “original” material is more likely to sell. If you look at this summer, so much of the A titles are sequels and remakes or something borrowed and something blue. This may have something to do with a post-strike atmosphere, as the industry has been trying to right itself after a shaky year and a half of rushed films and stupidly bought material. But doing $20-$30 Million today is like doing $10 ten years ago, and there’s not the back end. Ironically, this is a film that will never air on network television. This looks like a non-entity in the scheme of things. It’s not a for or against title, it should do well enough that no one’s angry, but not well enough that anyone excited by it, and international should be weak. And critics have found it marginally passable at best. That’s what you get when you hire Shawn Levy the director. Carell will still headline movies because he got a foot in the door first. Whereas Tina Fey may be too hampered by Liz Lemon.



1. Clash of the Titanos – The Hands of Fate - $25 Million
2. Date Night – $24.5 Million
3. How to Train Your Dragon – $20 Million
4. Tyler Perry’s Latest – $14.3 Million
5. The Last Song – $8.9 Million

I should be back Sunday to show how wrong I was.