Tina Fey and Steve Carrell star in Date Night as Claire and Phil Foster; your typical “boring New Jersey couple” with full-time jobs, a house to keep, book groups to attend, and two children to tame. Their busy lifestyle allows for one date night per week: dinner at the local steak joint where they order potato skins and salmon and play “What’s the Story?” judging the other couples in the restaurant.
When their seemingly happily married best friends independently reveal to Claire and Phil that they are separating, Claire and Phil realise that their routine married life could use some shaking up. The next date night, they decide to head to New York and try out one of the city’s trendiest new restaurants. Unable to secure a table, they take the reservation of another couple — the Triplehorns — who appear not to have arrived. Their identities are mistaken and they become caught up as novices in a professional game of blackmailing, car-chasing, and double-crossing.
Fey and Carrell are charming as the Fosters, giving complexity to comedy characters that tend to be fairly 2-dimensional. Their shared quirks and sentence-finishing feels real, learned over years rather than forged over a table-read. Many of the jokes are improvised, which suits them well, having both started out as members of Second City, the infamous improvisation troupe in Chicago.
Although only an hour and a half long, it feels longer as they make a protracted effort to run from their pursuers, cajole those who are able to help them, and attempt to save their ailing relationship.
Much of the interaction with Mark Whalberg and some later scenes seem forced, giving Fey and Carrell little to work with. The result is a fairly typical rom-com style with unoriginal jokes and tepid physical comedy. The Fosters’ clumsy charm runs dry towards the very tightly wrapped-up ending, making it a lukewarm comedy that will easily pass 1.5 hours, but is ultimately aimed at a more mature audience and has a short shelf life.
Date Night opens in UK cinemas this Friday, 16th April.
[Image from Filmofilia.]