How to Watch: “Date Night”

Step 1. Definitely go on this Date. Pairing up Tina Fey and Steve Carell is pure genius, especially as a bored married couple looking to ignite that spark once again but getting too much fire than they bargained for.

Step 2. Don’t over complicate things. A good comedy usually starts with a basic premise – and Date Night is no exception. Fey and Carell play Claire and Phil Foster, a suburban New Jersey couple with kids, who have hit a stagnant, but not altogether uncomfortable point, in their marriage. Neither of them really see it as a major problem – until they see their friends break up for similar reasons. So, Phil decides he’s going to take Claire to the Big Apple for their weekly “date night,” to spice things up, and that’s where it all goes awry. First, they try to get into a trendy restaurant without a reservation, which ain’t happening. But rather than just go home, Phil is bound and determined to show Claire a good time and so claims the rezzie for the “Tripplehorns” when the couple is a no-show. “Who does that?,” the Fosters are continually asked throughout the movie. Then, in a classic case of mistaken identity, the Fosters are accosted by two dirty cops, roughed-up, shot at, escape and find themselves on the run through the streets of Manhattan, trying to unravel who the Tripplehorns are and why they are in deep doo-doo. And all the while, Claire and Phil examine their marriage and eventually appreciate the normality of it.

Step 3. Cut out the over-the-top silliness. Date Night could have easily become one ginormously ridiculous situation after another, but thankfully, it keeps the antics to a minimum. Not to say there aren’t a few roll-your-eyes moments, but Fey and Carrell sell this puppy like there’s no tomorrow. It’s like knowing you’re in good hands, with people you trust, knowing they are going to successfully guide through the movie, regardless of how crazy it gets. These two funny people are the best when they are in full banter mode, riffing off each other like the comic pros they are. I wonder what took them so long to make a movie together, but then I realized Fey really hasn’t been making movies for all that long. Now, I’m pretty sure they’re going to reprise the Fosters at some point. Although Carell and Fey are the main draw, there is a standout cameo by Mark Wahlberg, as Claire’s former real-estate client, who helps the Fosters out. He gets to play all hunky and suave with his shirt off. Comedy suits him.

Step 4. Put in a GREAT car chase. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum 1&2) is quickly becoming one of the better and more serviceable comedic directors out there. He helms Date Night with confidence, keeping the pace steady, while allowing for the softer moments between Claire and Phil. Yet, Date Night has one really spectacular car chase sequence that screenwriter Josh Klausner should be commended for writing, and Levy for pulling it off. It is not only hilarious but incredibly inventive. Best I’ve seen in years.

Level of difficulty in watching Date Night: No sweat off my brow. Just knowing it’s Steve Carell and Tina Fey doing the funny stuff is enough.

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