Steve Carell and Tina Fey star in this comedy all about a normal, married couple who find themselves being pursued by dangerous men with guns, all because they pretended to be someone else so that they could get a table in a busy, trendy restaurant. There’s nothing new or unpredictable here but Carell and Fey are such likeable leads, and the supporting cast includes the likes of Ray Liotta and William Fichtner, that it breezes along amicably enough with plenty of chuckles throughout (even if there are very few big laughs).
Carell and Fey are the Phil and Claire Thompson, a married couple firmly mired in their daily routine and even their weekly “date night” seems to be nothing more than another household chore that must be done, no matter how they feel. They go to the same place and have the same food and chat to the same waiting staff. But when friends of theirs announce that they’re getting a divorce, Phil and Claire are shocked. This leads to them making more of an effort on their next date night and being more determined than ever to have a special night. Which is why they end up taking a dinner reservation from someone who didn’t appear. When the bad guys (Jimmi Simpson and Common) show up the Thompsons think that they are being moved out of the restaurant because of their lying ways but it turns out to be much more serious than that. These bad guys want a portable hard drive returned to them that the Thompsons don’t have and don’t know a thing about. They might be able to get their hands on it though, and save their lives, thanks to the help of Holbrooke Grant, an ex-client of Claire (who never seems to wear a shirt, funnily enough).
Written by Josh Klausner (who also had a hand in the third and fourth Shrek movies) and directed by Shawn Levy, this comedy has solid, if unspectacular, talent behind the camera in those key positions. Thankfully, up front we get everyone doing their level best to wring the laughs out of the material.
The action and thrills aren’t really all that entertaining but, thankfully, the comedy makes up for that. I like Steve Carell and Tina Fey in almost everything and perhaps that means I rate this higher than many others would. I also like Liotta, Fichtner and Mark Wahlberg (who plays Holbrooke)so that helps. James Franco and Mila Kunis – two other stars I enjoy seeing onscreen – make a hilarious cameo, leading to even more to enjoy for me. Even Taraji P. Henson shines in a small role as the cop trying to get to the bottom of things.
The script isn’t as sharp as it could be, by half, and we’ve seen a lot of this “plain suburbanite couple get into unexpected trouble” comedy before but that doesn’t make Date Night a bad film. It’s a star comedy vehicle with two great comedy stars elevating standard material to something a hell of a lot funnier than it probably should be.
DIRECTOR: SHAWN LEVY
STARS: STEVE CARELL, TINA FEY, MARK WAHLBERG, TARAJI P. HENSON, JIMMI SIMPSON, COMMON, WILLIAM FICHTNER, RAY LIOTTA
RUNTIME: 101 MINS APPROX (EXTENDED VERSION)