Three things went through my head when I first learned of this movie. First, I thought that this actually looked pretty good. It's headlined by a couple of sitcom stars who I enjoy on shows that I really like and they look like they have good chemistry together. Secondly, I saw two sitcom stars I like together in a big screen movie and that could be a recipe for disaster. The third thing that came to mind was a feeling of déjà vu. Haven't we seen this already? I was thinking of The Out of Towners. Now, even with these conflicting thoughts, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to see it. For better or worse. Hoping for the better. Preparing for the worst.
Perhaps surprisingly, I left the theater with a smile on my face. Date Night proved to be an entertaining romp that takes us from the routine drag of suburbia, to the fast-paced excitement of the big city, to the exhilarating fear of mistaken identity. It is a night that puts our heroes through the wringer, tests their mettle, and dares them to be more than they thought they'd ever be. The best part about it? They are always armed with an innocence, a clever quip, and a handy escape route. In other words, it sounds like a big action film with built in coincidences that are sure to annoy the hardened action junkie. Fortunately, this is a romantic comedy with an action component. Sure, it feels familiar, but it is delivered with a couple of familiar faces doing what they do best. More or less.
Steve Carell and Tina Fey are Phil and Claire Foster, the epitome of the suburban grind. They are happy enough, at least they think they are. They have two kids, full time jobs, a nice home, and no downtime save for a date night they spend going to a movie and a local steak house where they order the same thing like clockwork. In essence, their time together is as workmanlike and perfunctory as any other time of the week, yet they keep doing it as if habitual repetition will make it any better. Well, after seeing what their lives could turn into as seen through the mirror of their friends, Phil gets the idea of breaking the routine. The couple head off to New York City for dinner at a trendy new restaurant. This is where things begin to take a turn.
Now, if you have seen the trailer, you pretty much know what this movie is about. Chalk it up to the current trend of terrible trailers that tell you everything about the film. In any case, they end up taking someone else's reservation and are mistaken for a couple who stole something from a big time mob boss. Now they are on the run from corrupt cops and mob lackeys. The boring suburban couple are forced to improvise as they go along, trying to keep themselves alive, get out of this mess and back to their non-life threatening existences in New Jersey.
To be certain, this is not the most original movie I've ever seen, nor is it the funniest. That said, it is pleasant, funny, and has a couple of very likable performers in the lead roles. Given a different set of actors the outcome could have been completely different. Carell and Fey work well together and I would like to see them paired together again. However, as much as I enjoyed this movie, I would like to see them in something a bit more sophisticated. The movie is nothing if not straightforward and pretty much devoid of subtext. As a matter of fact, their respective sitcoms each have more texture than the film does. Still. these two know how to work a line and they are working their hearts out here, making the screenplay work for them.
Date Night also succeeds in the supporting cast. There are memorable appearances from the likes of Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Ray Liotta, and William Fichtner. They deliver the funny in just the right mix.
What I like about the movie, besides the clever one-liners and funny situations, is that the romance is not about a young couple at the start of a potential relationship. We are presented with a couple well along their lives together. The fiery start to the relationship is all but gone, and nothing but a smoldering ember remains. The film gives us a couple that legitimately love each other but have forgotten how to express it. As their life has become the life of their kids, their love has become something more akin to a friendship. Watching Phil and Claire try to stoke the dying embers is a great thing to see in an age of divorce and broken homes. Yes, I understand this is a fictional film, but it is still not the sort of couple we see at the center of these types of movies.
Bottom line. Great? No. Fun? Yes. In my estimation it's definitely worth watching. Carell and Fey are in fine form and while the film is not downright hilarious, it has plenty of humor to offer. It is just a good time at the movies. What's wrong with that?