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Movie Review: Date Night (2010) Is Perfect for A … Date Night

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Seeing Date Night would make for, well, a mighty fun date night. It’s filled with laughs and moments that will have couples nudging and squeezing each other with recognition, especially those married-with-kids types who open the daily comics and head straight for Baby Blues.

The movie stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey (two of our finest comic talents) as Phil and Claire Foster. Their two small children are about the only excitement in their lives. And that excitement can be trying, often awakening them before dawn, crashing knees-first into their backs like cannonballs from a diving board.

Their day-to-day is mostly drudgery punctuated by nagging little irritations. You know the type. They mean nothing, but a bad night’s sleep and they become declarations of war. Eyes half-closed in the morning, Claire painfully bumps her knees and grimaces. She looks down to see every bathroom drawer extended. Her expression says, “I can forgive him for leaving the seat up, but not this!”

Yes, they are a man and a woman clearly on the verge of a mid-life crisis, all nicely underscored with "Blitzkrieg Bop" by The Ramones: “They’re forming in a straight line. They’re going through a tight wind. The kids are losing their minds…” And the only thing keeping them from turning all zombie on each other is their weekly date night.

They like to go to restaurants and watch other couples. They spin fanciful stories about what’s really going through the minds of a man and woman on a date at a nearby table. The stories – improvised by the nimble-minded Carell and Fey – are very funny, especially one about a guy eating a potato, but they are something else as well. Phil and Claire are role-playing, engaging in harmless little escapes.

At a book group meeting, they get a vision of a possible future. Their best friends, the Sullivans (played deliciously by Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) are going to split up – and they’d always seemed so happy. Claire and Phil both wonder: “Are we next?”

A week later, Claire decides to dress up for date night, inspiring Phil to do the same and make it a night they’ll never forget. They go to a snooty New York restaurant without reservations in hopes of slipping in, somehow. When a table for two goes unclaimed, Phil grabs it declaring, “We’re the Tripplehorns!” Their harmless role-playing has moved to a new level.

And when they are forced into an alley by two armed thugs, Phil gets his wish. This will be an evening to remember. Fleeing from the thugs, they embark on a long, strange night of self-discovery that ultimately brings them face-to-face with the real Tripplehorns (sort of), back in touch with who they really are, and to the realization of why they fell in love in the first place.

Keep in mind though that the plot of Date Night is predictable and perfunctory and pretty much beside the point. The pleasure is in watching two endlessly clever performers bounce comic ideas off each other. Carell and Fey obviously had a blast making this movie. Stay to the very end of the credits for some fun outtakes. You won’t be sorry.

If you see Date Night, don’t forget to make it a proper date night by stopping for a bite to eat. And remember, all you young couples out there getting affectionate at your candlelit tables, us older couples are watching you and making little comments – and taking notes.

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