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Goldstein Uses Date Night to Bash Fox

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 13, 2010 at 5:36AM

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Thompson on Hollywood

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Date Night scored a 65% fresh Tomatometer and 56 Metascore and opened to a $25-million weekend at the box office (second to Clash of the Titans due to premium 3D prices, not admissions) and scored a B Cinemascore. The LAT's Patrick Goldstein loathed the comedy (which unlike execrable Clash of the Titans or Hot Tub Time Machine, actually holds some appeal to women) enough to trash Twentieth Century Fox as an assembly-line product factory ("the Hollywood equivalent of Wall Mart").

Goldstein has a habit of Fox-bashing. While the studio churns out its share of drek, it also brought us James Cameron's Avatar and Titanic, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and Peter Weir's Master and Commander, among other risky projects. Goldstein also asserts that many other Hollywood stars could have performed the hapless couple played by Tina Fey and Steve Carell just as well.

I disagree. To the extent that the action comedy rises above conventional competence (the writing, as Goldstein suggests, is standard-issue), the actors make that so. According to both Fey and Carell (who have great screen chemistry), the Second City grads both improvised their way through the movie, encouraged by director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum), who managed as well as anyone could to elevate the material so that adults like me could enjoy it. I laughed a lot.

Compared to most of the studio crap out there, Date Night looks pretty good. I know, I'm damning with faint praise. Truth is, I too would rather be watching HBO. But I am rooting for the studios to stay in the business of catering to audiences other than dumb young males, and Date Night is a mainstream commercial romantic comedy for adults. If the studios cede smart grown-up fare to cable, adults will have no reason to go out to the movies at all.

This article is related to: Box Office, Genres, Headliners, Studios, Stuck In Love, Hollywood, TV, Spring, comedy, Twentieth Century Fox, Screenwriters, HBO

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.