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Entries in Date Night [2010] (1)

Monday
Apr262010

Date Night, 2010

Married...with Affection

Date Night is a really cute movie. It stars two of the hottest comedic talents on television right now, 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and Steve Carrell of The Office; so one might expect the film to be pretty damned funny. Well, it is funny. But Date Night is the kind of movie that gets by on good will more than big, outrageous laughs. It’s just cute.

Fey and Carrell star as Claire and Phil Foster, a completely average suburban married couple who have two kids, great jobs, and zero hip factor. Their idea of a good time is going out to eat at a chain restaurant and creating imaginary conversations between people sitting across the room. They clearly love each other, but the spark of their youth has been dimmed under years of responsibility and routine.

One night, they head into the city to an exclusive new restaurant, where they brazenly steal the reserved table of another couple (for the Fosters, this carries the same life-affirming rush as skydiving). It turns out the table belongs to a couple of grifter sleazebags who are holding a very important thumb drive for ransom from a local mob boss (Ray Liotta, who, between this movie and Wild Hogs is on a hot streak of paycheck films where he plays heavies inspired by the villains in Goodfellas—of which he was, ironically, not one); when a couple of corrupt cops show up to reclaim the drive, the Fosters find themselves at the wrong end of a gun and in the middle of a dark conspiracy.

From there, Date Night proceeds as a sort of mirror-world version of Adventures in Babysitting. Though, to be honest, it doesn’t have the edginess of that picture. What it does have is a keen sense of how (happily) married couples work and relate to one another. Phil and Claire bicker but they don’t scream; they talk about their fading looks and sex drives, but there are no late-film revelations about infidelity. Through all the car chases (which this movie does particularly well, believe it or not), gunplay, and awkward, impromptu stripper dances, what shines through is a sincere love and respect for one another, and a desperate desire to get home to their children.

Coming out of the movie, I remarked that I didn’t laugh very much, but I smiled a lot. It’s hard to get down on a movie with a serious comedy pedigree that doesn’t, by default, bust one’s guts, but that offers instead a warm appreciation for married life. Carrell and Fey are obviously very talented and synched-up, and I bought their relationship in every scene and with every line.

This is a safe, PG-13 comedy for suburban married couples, and I guess I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t rush out to the theatre to see Date Night, but it’s worth checking out on TV after you’ve put the kids to bed.