The comedy “Date Night” features Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey, respectively), two adults who want to break away from the monotony brought about by their increasingly dull working and married lives. Even their weekly “date nights” seem to have shifted to just another chore. They envy two of their recently divorced friends (Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) who give them a glimpse at being free of marriage and living life to the fullest.
Phil and Claire, in a stalwart venture to rekindle their desire for fun, head to a highly acclaimed seafood restaurant, oddly named The Claw. The restaurant is so popular that people literally book months in advance just to get in. This circumstance is where the Foster’s problems begin, as they have not even made any kind of reservation for themselves. The two then take a place at the restaurant’s bar, hoping that by some coincidence a table opens up for them.
Almost as if by a miracle, a party of two under the name Tripplehorn are a no-show. Acting quickly, Phil seizes this opportunity and claims that he and Claire are the Tripplehorns. After relaxing with some of the finest seafood, the two are approached by two men (Common and Jimmi Simpson) and are asked to step outside for a moment. Turns out that Phil and Claire are mistaken for the real Tripplehorns, whose past involve the robbery of an important flash drive (for all you non-techies, computer sticky things) from a mob leader by the name of Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta).
The two henchmen interrogate the Foster’s at gunpoint to lead them to the location of the flash drive, which they falsely declare is at Central Park. Under the tense circumstances, they secure the perfect moment for escape. The rest of their adventure involves clearing their name from this misconception by any means possible, whether that means coming up with a flash drive or just making a clean getaway. Along the journey, they seek help from a nearby detective (Taraji P. Henson), an always-shirtless client of Claire’s named Holbrooke Grant (Mark Wahlberg), and even the real Tripplehorns themselves (James Franco and Mila Kunis). Probably none of this would have happened if only Phil and Claire hadn’t brought bad luck upon themselves by toasting with empty wine glasses.
The two headlining stars, Steve Carell and Tina Fey, have already established themselves as two of the best comic performers of the current time. Carell is known for the sharp and entertaining “The Office” as well as the wonderfully lewd but equally ingenious “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, and Tina Fey for her years on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” That being said, they are the ones that almost hold together the entire movie by themselves. Both of them undoubtedly have a knack for awkward yet effective comic timing that is commonly pushed aside these days for the standard cheap laughs.
But that is just the problem. Aside from the almost-improv-sounding delivery of the two actors’ lines, there is very little that stands out in terms of hard laughs. A few chuckles here and there doesn’t quite make up for the moments I sat waiting for something more to happen. With a few exceptions (such as James Franco and Mila Kunis’s characters), few other characters aside from Phil and Claire are written with as much wit as them.
Another complaint I have involves the direction the story takes as the movie goes on. While beginning with a half-way decent introduction to the Foster’s lives and the start of the plot, everything progressively becomes more tedious the closer the film gets to the end. By that point, the audience is used to all the characters, the writing becomes commonplace, plot holes pile up, and the situations become absurd and disconnected. It still manages to miss the significant flaws faced by most mainstream comedies, but it just doesn’t have the capability of holding the viewer’s interest.
While it looked like a promising attempt, “Date Night” missed expectations in that it required more developed writing and a stronger story progression. It is not awful by any stretch, I just feel it is unnecessary to have to pay at the theater to see it. While Carell and Fey truly steal the spotlight in all of their scenes, those scenes unfortunately just made me yearn to watch an episode of “The Office.” Better luck next time for the two of them.