Date Night reviewed

Date Night is that rarest film for me – a movie that I ended up watching absolutely “cold,” having never been exposed to any pre-release hype, any trailers and any marketing media apart from the poster. I didn’t know what to expect of this comedy, which for the first time teams humour heavyweights Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I’m pleased to report though that the film is one of the most entertaining comedies of 2010 so far, keeping the laughs at all time feather-light without slipping into juvenile territory.

Date Night centres on Phil and Claire Foster, an upper middle class couple from New Jersey who find their marriage is in a rut. Even their weekly date night, which consists of a steakhouse dinner followed by a movie, has become tired routine. And when their best friends announce that they’re divorcing because they’ve devolved into just “really excellent roommates”, the Fosters enter mild panic mode. Desperate for spontaneity, they head to New York for dinner at the hottest new restaurant in the city. They get more excitement than they bargained for though, when a hijacked dinner reservation and case of mistaken identity sets two crooked cops after them. Suddenly the Fosters are running for their lives, with only each other to rely on.

In all honestly the plot in Date Night isn’t that important. It’s actually quite slight and obvious. Pleasure doesn't come then from watching the storyline unfold but rather from the interaction of Carell and Fey onscreen. Not only are they utterly convincing as a married couple but they are very likeable as well. Considering that the upper middle class are normally depicted onscreen as neurotic and over privileged – as in Desperate Housewives – Carell and Fey keep things refreshingly “real”. Their Fosters are quick witted and quirky. They play an especially amusing restaurant game where they imagine the conversations of other patrons. And their drunken shenanigans with a camera phone and Will.I.Am are hilarious.

Carell and Fey have no vanity as comedians. They will do whatever is necessary to produce a laugh. There is a lot of physical humour, and appearance-related embarrassment in store for them both in Date Night, but they pull it off effortlessly, and utterly straight faced - while ensuring their characters remain credible. Here's hoping that Carell and Fey will reteam onscreen again in future because they make a fantastic pairing.

Carell and Fey are in turn supported by a surprisingly good “name” cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig, in some very small roles. Of of these stars, Franco and Kunis are probably the most fun, playing against sleek, sexy type as a highly dysfunctional, and not particularly bright, young couple who cross the Fosters’ path.

What’s perhaps most surprisingly about Date Night though is that aside from the hijinks, the film actually has something to say about long term relationships without forcing the message down audience throats. There are one or two moments in the film, however, where tired marriage issues do surface: Claire nags Phil about being irresponsible and Phil whines that he’s never given the opportunity to prove himself. These scenes are fortunately brief however, and Date Night, on the whole, also manages to avoid slipping into overblown hysteria. The only time the film really succumbs to credibility-stretching ridiculousness is during an extended car chase involving police vehicles, a taxi and an Audi R8.

In the end, Date Night is what movie fluff should be. Forget all those romantic comedies with their smug leads, character bickering and plot clichés. If you are looking for an undemanding, and highly entertaining, couple-centric movie for your date night, this one comes highly recommended.


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