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DATE NIGHT (director: Shawn Levy; screenwriter: Josh Klausner; cinematographer: Dean Semler; editor: Dean Zimmerman; music: Christophe Beck; cast: Steve Carell(Phil Foster), Tina Fey (Claire Foster), Mark Wahlberg(Holbrooke Grant), Taraji P. Henson(Detective Arroyo), Kristen Wiig(Haley Sullivan), James Franco(Taste), Mila Kunis(Whippit), Jimmi Simpson (Armstrong), Common(Collins), Mark Ruffalo (Brad Sullivan), William Fichtner (Frank Crenshaw), Olivia Munn (Claw Hostess), Leighton Meester (Katy), Ray Liotta (Joe, Mafia Boss); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tom McNulty/Shawn Levy; 20th Century Fox; 2010)
It works beautifully as a benign date flick.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A toothless comedy weakly helmed by Shawn Levy (“Night at the Museum”/”Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”/”The Pink Panther”), that is padded with cameos by a host of stars. It sparkles at times only because of the good chemistry of the appealing Tina Fey and Steve Carell, as an ordinary couple on-the-run in a North By Northwest scenario and not because of the bland derivative script by Josh Klausner or all the poorly executed familiar formulaic scenes of cartoonish gun battles, far-fetched car chases and a god awful embarrassing strip-club sequence. Though the film might not satisfy those who look for their films to be well-crafted (it never even tries to keep its story line plausible), nevertheless it works beautifully as a benign date flick.

The Fosters, tax lawyer Phil and real-estate agent Claire Foster (Steve Carell & Tina Fey), are a typical middle-class suburban New Jersey couple with two active youngsters who try to liven up their dull marriage (the romance has fizzled) with a special date at the trendy Claw restaurant in the Big Apple’s Tribeca after hearing their book-club married friends (Mark Ruffalo & Kristen Wiig) are splitting. The couple usually go every week on their date night to an uneventful local Teaneck steakhouse and then catch a movie, while a babysitter watches their children. When they arrive at the crowded bistro without a reservation, they are treated rudely by the host and made to feel out of place among the city hipsters. While waiting at the bar, a table is called for a no-show couple named the Tripplehorns (Mila Kunis&James Franco) and Phil and Claire brazenlyimpersonate them to steal their reservation. Before the giddy Fosters can finish their delicious but expensive meal, two thugs (Jimmi Simpson & Common) force them into the alley and tell them they’re dead meat unless they can produce the “flash drive” that has incriminating stuff on it that they are using to blackmail their powerful boss. It turns out that the Triplehorns are low-life hustlers trying to scam the Big Boys and the Fosters in a case of mistaken identity are stuck in the middle of a nightmare.

The resourceful couple escape the thugs in Central Park, but are pursued by them through the city streets. In a desperate move Claire contacts a city-dwelling former client who is a weapons and security expert–a hi-tech maven named Holbrook Grant (Mark Wahlberg)–for help in tracking down the Tripplehorns, and while the Hebrew speaking super-fit stud remains shirtless in his luxury townhouse apartment he helps the befuddled couple through a wild night in the city they will never forget as they must cope with gun-toting goons chasing them who turn out to be bad cops, a pervert DA (William Fichtner) and a surly Mafia kingpin (Ray Liotta).

Predictably this uncalled for wacko date night, where the mild-mannered couple cross the lines of their staid routine life to one of action heroes, brings a spark to their romance and strengthens their marriage bonds. It’s just too bad Carell and Fey are hampered by the uninspired screenplay and direction, as I believe if allowed to follow their own comical ingenuity or provided with a more inspired story-line they could have made this routine comedy really sparkle and not be funny just in fits and starts.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”