In the new romantic comedy, Date Night, Tina Fey and Steve Carell come to realize that their relationship has plateaued and they need to do something more jolting than their mundane weekly dinners-out. So they buy a fog horn, make-up a few misspelled signs and crash a Tea Party. Well, maybe not, but what they do – steal another couple’s dinner reservation -- is almost as reprehensible.
Potato skins and salmon at the Teaneck Tavern just don’t do it anymore for Phil and Claire Foster. It’s all gotten just too routine and Phil is concerned that they’re more “roommates” than they are married. To shake things up, Phil takes Claire to a trendy new restaurant in Manhattan where, without a reservation, they stand no chance of being seated. While waiting at the bar, Phil overhears an unacknowledged reservation being called for the Tripplehorns and suddenly mans-up. “That’s us,” he says. “We’re the Tripplehorns.”
They’re seated and it’s a fun moment but it’s over all too quickly when the Fosters are bounced from their table and taken out to the alley where two thugs try to kill them. Apparently, Phil and Claire picked the wrong couple to impersonate. The real Tripplehorns are blackmailing the District Attorney. Actually, they’re not. A mobster named Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta) is behind it all. But that doesn’t help the Fosters who go on one uncharacteristically wild adventure to save not just their good name, but their lives, as well.
Date Night is exactly what you expect: a charming comedy that perfectly exploits the wit and pathos fans of the popular TV stars will come to see. But there’s a dark side to the film. Entertainment Weekly called it a “conservative comedy with mainstream values.” In other words, it’s one of the few movies that dare to refute “trickle-down parenting” (i.e., first and foremost, mom and dad have to be happy). Yes, there are snipes and doubts, but in the end, the Fosters come to understand that what others call a “stagnant” marriage, they call a “stable” one.
Thankfully, it manages to entertain without being preachy or losing comic focus.
A perennially-shirtless Mark Wahlberg spoofs his earlier self; a wonderfully-comic James Franco outdoes himself (“Like I wanna spend the rest of my life selling stolen wheelchairs!”); and, the great Ray Liotta, he ought to be ashamed of himself self. No big whoop, they’re incidental. The real draw is the chemistry Fey and Carell work to make Date Night a good way to spend one.
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