Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey and Steve Carell) are a typical suburban couple from New Jersey whose lives - including their weekly date nights of dinner and a movie - have become routine. To reignite the marital spark, they hire a babysitter and make an impromptu, no-reservation visit to a trendy Manhattan bistro. Not taking no for an answer, they find a way to stay - but a case of mistaken identity turns their romantic evening into a dangerous adventure involving gangsters, large scale bribery and crooked cops. In desperation, they seek help from a one time real estate client of Calire's, the resourceful (and superfit) Holbrook (Mark Wahlberg). In fear for their lives, they have to come up with a plan to survive - and re-discover the bond between them.
Review by Louise Keller:
Everything works in Date Night, a brilliantly conceived comedy in which boring, everyday reality morphs into a thrilling fantasy drenched in danger. The pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a married couple from the burbs drowning in a struggle to juggle romance with domestic chaos is one made in comic heaven. First and foremost, they are credible and the comedy bubbles naturally from the crazy situations that unfold. As always, it is the fine line that comedy and tragedy treads, that makes the laughs so heartfelt.
In the first few scenes, we can see what life's daily grind is like for Carell and Fey's Phil and Claire Foster, a conscientious, hard-working couple stuck in their roles as working parents whose token 'date night' at the local diner is hardly conducive to romance and hot sex. But all that changes when in a desperate attempt to keep their relationship alive, Phil and Claire head to downtown Manhattan and are sucked deeper and deeper into a scenario involving the mafia, a blackmail plot and corrupt cops. The key to it all is the way John Klausner's script allows the Fosters to cross the line of 'normality' from a routine of book clubs, mouth guards and policing rowdy kids to one in which they are required to improvise in larger-than-life situations. When Phil makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to take the table-for-two reserved for the no-show Tripplehorns in the all-important scene at the uber-trendy, uber-snobby restaurant Claw, we are inwardly cheering them on. What happens next is a hilarious melange of eye-popping action scenes in which comedy free-falls.
The restaurant exit scene is a hoot and wait until you see Carell and Fey as pole-dancers doing a sex robot routine at a sleazy club. The key roles are perfectly cast with Mark Wahlberg scrumptious as the bare-chested, sexy security expert, Ray Liotta type-cast as the bad-ass Mafia boss and James Franco and Mila Kunis wonderful as the heavily tattooed couple Taste and Whippit, who show that a life 'on the wild side' does not exclude them from the same kind of pressures and problems that Phil and Claire face in the suburbs. Tina Fey and Steve Carell are faultless in the lead roles and director Shawn Levy allows everything to unravel beautifully and we find ourselves spinning with delight into an adventure escape filled with laughs but grounded firmly in a truth-filled reality that is all too familiar.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The old mistaken identity device (brilliantly handled in Hitchcock's North by North West) that leads innocent characters into deadly danger provides the pivot for a comedy about the pitfalls of marriage as a vehicle for long term relationships. Both elements are serious, but John Klausner's clever script and Shawn Levy's adroit direction achieve a finely honed balance between action thrills and comedy, all told in an economical 88 minutes.
The execution of the screenplay is helped considerably by the comedic talents of both Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who are able to nudge their performance just a smidgin over the totally naturalistic to be funny without sliding into the ham. That subtlety, the instinctive sense of where the line is, takes talent. The reality of married life with young kids is part of the characters' motivation, and there is enough of it to ring true. We understand the drive to have intimate time away from the barfing kids.
There is some nice comedy milked from New York's restaurant snobbery, as Phil and Claire battle for a table at an expensive eatery. But Levy keeps the pace up and nothing is laboured. Tina Fey sparkles and bounces off Steve Carell's deadpan performance, and the two of them deliver the emotional reality of a couple even under the demands of comedy. This is the film's most important asset.
Terrific support work from a fine cast, notably Mark Wahlberg, whose Holbrook character is a combination of successful playboy, high-tech security consultant and grudgingly decent acquaintance.
There is tension in both the action and the relationship departments, a thrilling but funny car chase with a twist, and great camerawork from Aussie Dean Semler. There is enough entertainment value in the movie to forgive the schmaltzy ending - and the message that couples need to work at their relationship is well articulated ... it may well prove to be a great date movie.
Email this article
DATE NIGHT (M)
CAST: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, Common, Jimmi Simpson, Leighton Meester, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta
PRODUCER: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
SCRIPT: John Klausner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler
EDITOR: Dean Zimmerman
MUSIC: Christoph Beck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 8, 2010