Directed by: Shawn Levy
Movie Review by Claudia Puig
Tina Fey and Steve Carell make Date Night an absurd and wildly amusing night to remember. This is the rare screwball comedy that is superbly paced, cleverly plotted and hilarious from start to finish.
Fey and Carell are ideally cast. Their respective improvisational talents and razor-sharp comic timing make them one of the most engaging on-screen couples around. And their chemistry is palpable. Whether hashing out marital problems, giddily running from the law, enduring a harrowing car chase or staring into the barrel of a mobster's gun, they nail it every time. Equally skilled in verbal banter and ridiculous physical gags, neither is afraid to look ridiculous — and both frequently do.
They play Phil and Claire Foster, an ordinary couple living in the New Jersey suburbs. Married with two children, their well-ordered lives include weekly date nights. These consist of eating the same food at the same local restaurant, their conversation drifting to imagining the more interesting lives of diners nearby.
After hearing their best friends (Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) are getting a divorce, driven apart by their humdrum lives, Phil and Claire are worried. So Phil decides to take Claire to the hot new Manhattan restaurant she has been dying to try. When the arrogant maitre d' scolds them for not making a reservation months before, they slink off to wait indefinitely for a table. Phil makes an impulsive decision and grabs the reservation for a no-show couple. Initially aghast, Claire quickly embraces the notion. It turns out to be a terrible idea.
The concept is a well-worn one: A case of mistaken identity spirals out of control. Everything that can go awry does — and then some. The story could easily have run adrift in formulaic silliness. What makes this action comedy work so well is Phil and Claire's sensible, mundane quality. Some of the best comedies involve average folks careening through a series of loopy misadventures. Think The Out of Towners, After Hours, The Daytrippers or Little Miss Sunshine. Here, the alchemy of smart casting, offbeat situations and clever dialogue creates an ideal fusion of concept, process and players.
Director Shawn Levy has left a trail of forgettable comedies in his wake. Among them: What Happens in Vegas, Just Married and Cheaper by the Dozen. But he strikes comic gold here with a script by Josh Klausner.