Alfred Hitchcock, meet Neil Simon. “North by Northwest” is crossed with “The Out-of-Towners” in “Date Night,” which stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a suburban couple who travel to New York City for dinner, are mistaken for a pair of blackmailers, and spend the rest of their night dodging corrupt cops and politicians as well as mobsters. Since the couple is played by decidedly quirky leads, the result is a movie that’s different from run-of-the-mill romantic comedies—which is all to the good, but not terribly funny—which isn’t.

Phil and Claire Foster are a pretty odd pair, of course; he’s a harried tax consultant, and she’s a realtor in a down market, and they’re saddled with a couple of tykes who—on the evidence of the mercifully brief footage they get here—are little monsters. But the Fosters remain devoted to one another, even in the face of the marital disintegration of their neighbors the Sullivans (Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig, in what amount to cameos), and go out regularly for dinner together, leaving the kids in the care of a sitter (Leighton Meester). One night Phil suggests they go to a plush new seafood restaurant in the Big Apple, but when they get there the officious maitre d’ (Nick Kroll) shuffles them off to the bar to await a table that will probably never open up. So when a table is announced for the Tripplehorns, who apparently haven’t shown up, Phil claims that’s them.

Unfortunately, in the middle of their meal they’re accosted by a couple of guys (Jimmi Simpson and Common) who order them out of the place. They assume they’re employees, but outside the duo demand that the “Tripplehorns” return a flash drive stolen from mob kingpin Joe Morello (Ray Liotta, another virtual cameo). The Fosters escape, but when trying to report their near-fatal misadventure to the police, they discover that the guys who threatened them are in fact cops. So our fish-out-of-water heroes are forced to track down the actual Tripplehorns, get that flash drive, and use it as barter to save themselves.

What follows is a fast-paced series of episodes involving the thieves (James Franco and Mila Kunis), a former client of Claire’s (Mark Wahlberg) who’s a security honcho, the local DA (William Fichtner), a straight-arrow detective (Taraji P. Henson), and a cab-driver (J.B. Smoove) pulled unwillingly into the chase—among a lot of others. A few are nicely written and played—most notably the scenes featuring Wahlberg, pleasantly laid-back as a guy whose studly physique and habitual shirtlessness drive Phil up the wall. But the last-act stuff centered on Fichtner and Liotta, set against the backdrop of a gentlemen’s club where the Fosters have to do pole dancing, isn’t just unfunny but unpleasant, and really stretches the bounds of the PG-13 rating. The sequence with Franco and Kunis falls between the two extremes, neither particularly good nor offensively bad. Then there’s the big action-comedy car chase in which Smoove plays a major role. It’s obviously intended to be a show-stopper, but goes on far too long and comes off seeming like an obligatory nod to the sort of over-the-top smash-and-burn cliches we’ve seen too often before. And Smoove comes perilously close to ethnic stereotyping.

Throughout Carell and Fey rely on their familiar sitcom personas—his goofy and hangdog, hers ditzy and cute—to carry the day, and it mostly works; they’re individually amusing, and score well off one another. But the dialogue Josh Klausner provides them with is too often second-rate, and one wonders whether their own verbal contributions were all that great. (Certainly the improvs added as out-takes to the final credits aren’t very convincing.) And except when they’re playing against the likes of Wahlberg and Franco, they don’t seem at the top of their game dealing with the supporting cast.

The movie gets more frantic as it goes along, something that seems to suit director Shawn Levy, of “Night at the Museum,” whose treatment of the more sedate early scenes is at best workmanlike but grows more confident as the action revs up, even if the material itself deteriorates. Dean Semler’s cinematography is fine, though some of the exteriors are uncomfortably dark. The best technical work, though, comes from editor Dean Zimmerman, who trims the footage down to a mere eighty-eight minutes, which proves more than enough.

“Date Night” isn’t a terrible action comedy, but given the pairing of Carell and Fey (as well as Wahlberg and Franco), it could have been much more. As it is, their best work remains on the small screen.