All Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) Foster want is a night out on the town. They’re stuck in a boring suburban rut, with their crazy kids, and their weekly date night at the local watering hole. It’s comfortable, it’s stable, it’s… it’s boring.
Like a lot of otherwise happily married couples, they’re stuck in a routine. When their friends announce they’re going to get a divorce, Phil and Claire have the bright idea to shake up their routine, and Phil has a plan: drive into the city (Manhattan) and eat at a trendy New York restaurant.
Unfortunately, like most of Phil’s plans, this one doesn’t go quite right. They get to the restaurant late, find that it’s been booked for a month and, after the twosome steal another couple’s reservation, they discover that the identities they’ve stolen (the Tripplehorns) are being chased by some crooked cops (Common and Jimmi Simpson), who believe they’re holding out something for ransom from reputed mobster Miletto (Ray Liotta).
Date Night is, on the surface, a fairly standard comedy of errors. You’ve seen the mistaken identity-gets-someone-in-trouble-with-the-mob/the-law a million times before. So often, in fact, I had trouble nailing down one specific movie to bring up in comparison here.
Date Night is nothing new in terms of plot. However, there’s one thing you can say about Date Night, and that it’s got an incredible cast. From Carell and Fey as the leads to Taraji P. Henson as a helpful detective, Mark Wahlberg as a hunky deus ex machina, and Mila Kunis and James Franco as the original Tripplehorns, this movie is loaded from top to bottom with some pretty good comedy actors (or just actors in general).
Suffice it to say, Carell and Fey really work well together. Given that both are graduates of the famous Second City comedy troupe, they both have a great sense of comic timing, and a formidable chemistry together that seems authentic. Playing a married couple can be tough, but these two just kind of link together effortlessly, thanks to their skills at improvisation and intelligence.
While the plot is pedestrian, it’s also very funny. There’s some great call-back lines, some great zingers, and some very funny interplay between the characters. Then again, it’s kind of hard to make people like Carell and Fey not funny. I won’t go so far as to say Josh Klausner’s script is great, but it is funny. I laughed, anyway. It’s surprisingly consistent in the jokes and the pacing, and it seems to divvy up the action and the comedy in fairly equal measure, with a surprising sweet undertone. Even the MacGuffin’s generic nature doesn’t really lag down the movie.
The blend of action and comedy is right down director Shawn Levy’s alley, given his film credits are mostly comedy films with a significant slapstick or action element. Given the freedom from CGI in this picture, he seems to have fun doing some old-school stunt work, like car chases and crashes and whatnot. He keeps things moving at a brisk pace through its 88 minute run time, not letting the movie lag where it could have lagged, but not clipping the wings of his leads, either.
While Date Night isn’t uproarious throughout, it exceeded my expectations mightily and provided a good helping of laugh-out-loud funny moments, thanks mostly to the two leads. As action romantic comedies go, it’s more action and comedy than romance, but it’s definitely better than it had any right to be.
If you’re a fan of Carell and Fey, you’ll probably be pleased with the result. They’re not quite Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, but they might just be an adequate suburban Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.