If Date Night were a blind date between you and another person (as opposed to what, I don’t know) then I would say that the date is going pretty well. Sure there are times when some traits are revealed that you aren’t really sure if you want to stick around for, and sometimes they make some nervously ill-conceived jokes that you laugh at to be nice, but overall you genuinely had a good time and were glad you didn’t need to get a friend to call with an “emergency” to allow you to bail out early.
The date that this story revolves around takes a different path than the hypothetical mentioned above. In Date Night, Phil and Claire Foster try to add a little spice to their marriage by going out to a fancy dinner in the city. Unfortunately they do this without making a reservation, but instead of leaving they decide to take on the identity of the Tripplehorns since they bailed on their table. Unfortunately for the Fosters, they don’t even get through their dinner before two men pull them from their meal and accuse them of doing something in a case of mistaken identity, starting off the most dangerously adventurous date of their relationship.
Though the story revolves around the identities of the Tripplehorns and their seedy dealings bringing about the torturous night for the Fosters, this was by far the weakest point of the film. It seemed to be that the storyline going through the film was simply the thinnest excuse to create plot points that would leave plenty of open space for hilarity to ensue, and this becomes rather clear in how the game of cat and mouse between the Fosters and two thuggish characters was handled (as in: the Fosters would do something and then they would show up, then the Fosters would do something else and they would show up again, etc).
The concept of this film is really far fetched once it moves past the initial stealing of the reservation and gets even less plausible as the movie events continue to stack on top of each other throughout the night, but in all honesty, even though I complain about this story it’s hard to be disappointed in it when considering these moments of high comedy. But even these moments would not be enough to save the film without a great cast to put them into action and keep them from becoming too spooftastic. Steve Carell and Tina Fey pair up as the Fosters, and the majority of the film rests on their shoulders. Luckily enough their capabilities as comedic actors never waivers in this film, and I was with them from step one as things got further and further from the realm of being realistically probable.
Though a lot of the larger moments lend the majority of the comedy to the film, in all honesty Date Night was strongest when the performances asked for from the actors was more subdued. Let’s face it; there is no question that Carell and Fey are skilled in the art of finding the humor in the simplest of lines because they show this week after week in their respective TV series, and their portrayal of the Fosters is no different. Carell is brilliant in his insecurities towards Mark Wahlberg’s incapability of finding a shirt to wear, and I will never get tired of Tina Fey alluding to her views of the sanctity of food. Sure, some of the slower paced talking scenes between the two could drag slightly in comparison to the pacing of the rest of the film, but it was easy to appreciate what they were doing in them.
A lot of other well-known actors make brief appearances in this film before ducking out again, including Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco and Mila Kunis, but in all honesty a lot of them give pretty forgettable performances. Well, let me rephrase: it’s not that they did horrible work in their cameos (and everyone knows I appreciate all the Kristen Wiig I can get), but other than Wahlberg’s special agent type role, their characters go the way of the storyline by being pretty insignificant (along the lines of Kristen Stewart in Jumper. What, you don’t remember her in that? Exactly.). The majority of these actors get a few laughs and leave unscathed, but I almost feel bad for Taraji P. Henson’s lack of character as the detective following the nights events. Then again, at least her character didn’t have the added bonus of making me completely uncomfortable in it’s awkwardness, as did William Fichtner’s.
The ending of Date Night is slightly unsatisfying as it wraps up the weak storyline of the film, but thankfully the journey up to this point is highly entertaining and worth watching. If anything, this movie should be seen for the performances put in by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who deserve full credit for making this film as enjoyable as it is.
Final Grade: B