By Carl Kozlowski
April 9, 2010
Nearly every long-term couple hits some rough patches—periods in time where they lose their once-boiling attraction for each other and perhaps even forget what they loved about their partners in the first place. Phil and Claire Foster, a suburban New Jersey couple with two young kids and utterly boring careers, are a perfect example of this marital ennui.
In the new action-comedy Date Night, the Fosters (played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey; check out our Q&A with the stars here) get a chance to break out of their rut in a big way when they pretend to be a couple called the Tripplehorns in order to snag a table at the hottest new restaurant in New York City. Before their meal is even over, two dirty cops (Common and Jimmi Simpson) have forced them into a back alley and threaten to kill the Fosters because the cops truly believe they're the Tripplehorns and that the Tripplehorns are in possession of a very incriminating and valuable flash drive.
This case of mistaken identity leads the Fosters into the craziest night of their lives, one in which they'll engage in a spectacular and hilarious car chase (frankly, one of the best ever staged on film), gunfights, break-ins, burglaries and even stripping (don't ask) en route to rekindling their spark and realizing they have far more adventurous sides than they've ever realized.
Date Night is a throwback to the '80s-style glossy comedies in which laughs were placed well ahead of logic in often-hackneyed fish-out-of-water tales. As a result, Date Night suffers from some of the basic problems those films often possessed—particularly a script in which the bad guys magically behave stupidly at just the right moment to help our heroes save themselves, and our heroes suddenly possess ninja-like abilities to save themselves.
At its worst, the script by Josh Klausner sinks into such cliched depths that it actually has Phil Foster concoct a “plan” to save the day that leaves the audience entirely clueless until it occurs, and then leaves any logically minded viewer wondering how on earth a suburban tax accountant could possibly put any of it—much less all of it—together.
Yet, just as was the case in many of those '80s hits, the film is still so much fun in spite of these details that it's impossible not to be entertained anyway. Director Shawn Levy has become one of the best in the business at combining action and comedy in the two Night at the Museum films and the first of the recent Steve Martin Pink Panther films, and here he drives right past the plot holes with a near-breakneck pace.
But most importantly, Levy creates a fun atmosphere that leaves plenty of space for his outstanding cast to play in. Carell and Fey are note-perfect as an Everycouple, while an unusually deep cast—including Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo and Kristin Wiig—has a blast in small but prominent roles throughout.
Put it all together, and Date Night indeed is a perfect night out for any couple. It'll get you laughing, provide plenty of thrills and give plenty of spark for conversation and further fun at home. Not a bad combination these days, and a rare case where a movie truly delivers what it promises.