Tina Fey and Steve Carell star as Mr. & Mrs. Foster, on the run from gangsters in Date Night.
Opens Wednesday 5 May at UCG De Brouckère and Kinepolis (showtimes).
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no
common denominator, but among those whom I love,
I can: all of them make me laugh.”
– W. H. Auden
BRUSSELS (04 MAY 2010) – Auden’s quote might explain how easy it is to love Tina Fey and Steve Carell – arguably the most talented man and woman working in American comedy today, who star as the suburban married couple Claire and Phil Foster in Date Night. With their roots in improvisational comedy, both actors think on their feet and don’t mind being the butt of a joke. Their conventional good looks don’t hurt, but it’s their willingness to be imperfect that’s truly endearing.
Date Night is set up when the Fosters, a middle-class real estate agent and tax preparer with two kids, learn that their best friends (Mark Ruffalo and Kristen Wiig) are splitting up because they’ve become like “excellent roommates.” Fearing the same fate, the Fosters decide to upgrade their regular “date night” at a local tavern to a full-scale romantic evening in New York City.
In its earliest minutes, the film conveys little pings of reality that will resonate for many married couples: How a partner can be quite thoughtless, or a control freak; how sex can be something one “rallies” for; how kids can be blissfully oblivious to the red light on your forehead flashing ENERGY LOW; how, given ten minutes in the bathroom (if she only had them) a woman can transform herself from housewife to hottie.
The Fosters arrive at a trendy Manhattan restaurant only to learn it’s been fully booked for a month. Briefly chagrined as bridge-and-tunnel riffraff, Phil then saves the evening – or so he thinks – by poaching the reservation of the Tripplehorns – a name that isn’t too far off from Thornhill (Roger), Cary Grant’s role in North By Northwest. As in the Hitchcock classic, the Fosters’ table-snatching quickly embroils them in a mistaken-identity caper complete with ruthless killers demanding a small package holding valuable information.
James Franco and Mila Kunis (above) as the real Tripplehorns, and Mark Wahlberg (below) in one of his many shirtless scenes.
The best romantic comedies offer moviegoers an entertaining balance of fantasy and reality, and here director Shawn Levy has chosen shrewdly in his depiction of New York. As a backdrop for the reality-laden Fosters, Manhattan is shown in its mythic form: a seedy, crime-ridden Gotham with dark alleys and crooked cops – far from the antiseptic metropolis ofYou’ve Got Mail that seems closer to the truth with each passing year. Beginning with Mr. Ruffalo and Ms. Wiig, the plot – which moves forward rather predictably as the Fosters try to clear their names and/or recover a stolen flash drive – is buoyed nicely by a string of A-list actors in supporting roles.
As a wingless and shirtless guardian angel for the Fosters named Holbrooke Grant (there’s that name again), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, Boogie Nights) stirs up jealousy in Phil, who gets even by “borrowing” Grant’s Audi R8 for a rather lengthy and disappointing (if innovative) chase scene.
James Franco (the “Spider-Man” films) and Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) briefly steal the show as the real Tripplehorns. They argue about tattoos and “bedroom accessories” instead of laundry and dishes, but they’re basically at the same point in their relationship as the Fosters.
Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is the police chief who takes an interest when the Fosters’ trail leads to a notorious gangster – “Goodfella” Ray Liotta, no less.
It seems everyone in Hollywood is keen to work with Mr. Carell and Ms. Fey, and by the end of Date Night it would have been no surprise to see Nicole Kidman serving coffee. Because these two comic giants usually excel in material they've conceived and written themselves, however, it's surprising to see either of them a film written by a man (Josh Klausner, who also wrote Shrek the Third) who doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. The director wisely gave his stars freedom to ad lib at will, however – a decision that gave rise to some of the film’s funniest moments, such as when the Fosters playfully amuse each other over dinner by making up stories about the other couples in the restaurant.
Ms. Fey, best known for her 2008 impersonation of Sarah Palin, was for years the lead writer of the American sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live before creating and starring in the TV series 30 Rock, now in its fourth season. Mr. Carell launched his career as a reporter for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart before co-writing and starring in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and taking Ricky Gervais’ role in the U.S. adaptation of The Office, now in its sixth year of production.
Like its protagonists, Date Night has its flaws and doesn't always shine for its audience – and in a way, that's part of its charm: a great couple can survive a tough day or a tough script. The film's 88-minute runtime is as trim as Ms. Fey in her cheap red corset, leaving ample time for suburban couples to squeeze in dinner as well as the show.
Date Night is recommended before or after dinner, but please remember to make your own reservation.
Certification: USA:PG-13 | UK:15 | Ireland:15A
UGC De Brouckere: 12:00 14:00 16:00 18:00 20:00 22:00
Kinepolis Brussels: 14:45 17:15 20:15 22:30
73% of the "Top Critics" at RottenTomatoes.com have given positive reviews of this film.