by Shawn Pryor
“Date Night,” directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), deals with the lives of Phil and Claire Foster (played by Steve Carell & Tina Fey). Phil and Claire head a typical family with 2.5 kids, steady jobs and a life that is built around consistency. Yet, as we all know, this typical life can grow stale, so once a week the couple celebrates a “date night” of sorts.
Upon finding out their best friends are headed towards divorce because of a rut in their relationship, Phil begins to feel that the romance between he and Claire needs to be reignited. Phil decides to change things up a bit for date night by taking Claire to a pomp and popular restaurant in New York City. When they decide to swipe the reservation of a couple that never showed for their seats, their night turns into a collection of mistaken identity, a run-in with dirty cops, a secret agent, car chases, a district attorney with a secret and numerous other events that transpire into moments of comedy.
I will admit I had my doubts before seeing this film because I was not the biggest fan of Shawn Levy’s work. And ironically, my wife and I went to see this film during our “date night.” Even though the film’s characters and story are very predictable, the chemistry between Carell and Fey helped the director tremendously. When watching the movie you can tell there are scenes where the actors ad-libbing served a stronger suit than the script itself, so they were allowed to run free and it actuality helped the story move along and made for a few additional laughs. Just watch any part of the film when the Foster’s visit a man named Holbrooke (played by Mark Wahlberg) as proof of this. Claire (Fey) is completely smitten by Holbrooke and sells it well, while Phil (Carell) tries his best to “man-up” to be on Holbrooke’s level which is utterly funny.
As far as the supporting cast goes, as fleshed out as the Foster’s and the character of Holbrooke is written, all the other characters are cookie cutter but serve their purpose in the movie. It was nice to see Tajari P. Henson and Bill Burr as police detectives, but their roles were so flat anyone could have played those spots with ease because they do not mean much to the story as a whole. The same can be said for the two antagonists of the film, officers Collins and Armstrong (played by Common and Jimmi Simpson). They have the menacing look and acting beats down, but like Henson and Burr, anyone could have played those roles.
The last ten to fifteen minutes of this did have me in tears, though. I never thought putting Carell, Fey, and William Fichtner (who plays the DA in the film) in a seedy burlesque club would lead to that much laughter. I was honestly surprised. It is the first time I have ever heard the words “robot sex” used in a film before. Classy.
The film is a standard date movie comedy and that is it. If you are looking for anything else from this film other than “love, listen, spend time and respect your significant other”, then I do not know what else to tell you. It makes for a good rental.