Even the very best half-hour sitcom struggles to keep the laughs coming for the whole of its running time. So when a 90-minute feature film delivers a constant stream of laugh-out-loud moments, it’s a gem to be treasured. Date Night is one such movie.
The plot itself is totally ludicrous – if you’re looking for verisimilitude you’re looking in the wrong place. Phil Foster (Carell) and his wife Claire (Fey) work hard all day and at least as hard when they’re at home with their young children. But even so, they make the effort to have a "date night" now and again. However, with even these becoming increasingly predictable and the Fosters’ friends on the verge of splitting up, these are trying times. So one night, Phil decides to take Claire to a posh new restaurant in New York but without a reservation they seem doomed to a night of disappointment. But then, Phil takes a chance by pretending to be someone else and secures a table. However, this leads to a case of mistaken identity and suddenly the Fosters are caught up in a web of intrigue, danger, confusion and laughs.
Mainly laughs though for this is a supremely well crafted script from Josh Klausner. Perhaps most crucially, the Fosters are an entirely believable couple, likeable but flawed, and although they love each other, their busy lives are getting in the way of their own relationship. Carell and Fey are perfect, absolutely perfect foils for one another and the way they act and react to familiar situations (potential opportunities for sex, figuring out what other couples’ stories are in restaurants) is wonderfully observed.
While these two are clearly the stars of the show, there is excellent support from Wahlberg as a private investigator with an aversion to shirts, and Franco and Kunis in brief cameos as the couple whose identities the Fosters have stolen – when these two couple eventually meet it’s one of the high points of an already hilarious film.
Date Night is a rarity in modern cinema – a comedy with dozens of belly laughs, a heart and two top class performances from genuine stars. Let’s hope the Fey and Carell partnership gets another outing with as good a script as this very soon indeed. Highly recommended.
SECOND OPINION | Craig McPherson ?? In 1985 Martin Scorsese crafted the superb After Hours, the story of a pencil-pushing dweeb from cubicle land who stumbles into one raucous evening of epic, Rube Goldberg proportions. This is the film to which Date Night aspires, but falls so far short it’s a wonder they even bothered trying. Carell and Fey nail their parts as innocent rubes but that’s about the best thing that can be said about this tepid affair. The movie plays out as little more than a vehicle for a series of cameos and skits built around such notables as Wahlberg as a perpetually shirtless black ops expert, Smoove (Larry David’s roommate Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm) as a hapless cabbie the couple literally hook up with, and Franco as the low life who got them into their mess in the first place.
With so many bit parts relegated to talented players, the story quickly takes on the aura of a script that was cobbled together on the fly, possibly even as the cameras were rolling. The end result is a lack of sincerity and no feeling whatsoever that the story was part of a vision that was created in advance. It’s sort of like everyone’s winging it, and that’s what sets it apart from the Scorsese film it so desperately wants to emulate. If you really want to see this movie done right, pay a visit to your local DVD palace and rent a copy of After Hours. The time spent with that gem will be far more entertaining than this dreary adventure.