On DVD: Date Night

Everything that can be said about an actual date night (namely predictable) can be said about “Date Night.” No denying that stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey possess the most universal and multi-generational comic chops of any two comedians working today, but they certainly have to work to chew “Date Night” into something palatable.

Contrived best describes Josh Klausner’s script, but a film this processed comes into being at the top of the chain in Hollywood. In the eyes of a producer, “Date Night” attempts to combine the enduring appeal of action films with the relatability of a husband-wife comedy. In other words, plenty of wise-cracks about “the kids” in the midst of unfriendly gunfire. Fortunately, Fey and Carell manage to rise above it a majority of the time and not just comically speaking.

The two play Phil and Claire Foster, a middle-aged married couple with two kids who try to make an effort to spend more time together and be intimate but fail given their jobs and roles as parents. After their friends (cameos by Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo) mention they’re getting divorced, they realize it’s time to do something special and head to Manhattan for a night out at an overpriced seafood restaurant. Without a reservation, they have no luck, but they take the reservation of the Tripplehorns to get in anyway, only the Tripplehorns are apparently wanted by some bad folk. The date night turns into a fight for their lives as they become tangled in a web of NYC corruption — not exactly easy to deal with for a couple from New Jersey.

Carell’s performance generally sticks with straight-laced husband, which makes his occasional jumps into typical wackiness more effective. Weird to say that it’s good he’s less himself and more a typical character, but it fits. Fey seems a bit out of a place in a wife-y role (as far as the comedy), but she works her charms impressively. Masters of improvising, the two have a lot of apparent fun, but more impressively they effectively work the odd pauses during the action for sincere/touching husband and wife redefining their relationship moments. These scenes would completely derail most films with lesser stars, but “Date Night” never once goes under with them at the helm.

So while little praise can be heaped on this attempt to exploit the date night market in an anything but subtle way, few films of this ilk can actually back up the claim that they’re entertaining and likable like “Date Night” does despite the myriad of shortcomings.

3/5 Stars

Date Night
Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by Josh Klausner
Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey


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