Phil Foster (Steve Carell) is a tax consultant. Wife Claire (Tina Fey) is a realtor. Between their jobs, two young children, and all the other daily responsibilities that go into a day-to-day life, the two of them can barely muster up enough energy to go out by themselves once a week for dinner at a nearby steakhouse.
When friends Haley (Kristen Wiig) and Brad (Mark Ruffalo) announce they are getting a divorce, no longer romantic partners so much as great roommates, it hits home for the Fosters. Have they, too, lost their spark? For their next date night, they raise the ante, getting dressed up and heading into Manhattan to dine at Claw, a chic, upscale seafood restaurant so snooty the hosts answer the phone with "You're welcome."
Desperate for a table but without reservations, they decide to take that of the nowhere-to-be-found Tripplehorns. Before their meal is over, Phil and Claire are mistaken for the missing diners and running for their lives from a couple of thugs (Jimmi Simpson and Common) who want a flash drive with incriminating evidence exposing DA Frank Crenshaw's (William Fichtner) dirty dealings with the mob.
Date Night is that rare high-concept action-comedy that not only earns every one of its fairly consistent big laughs, but also provides a certain amount of pathos, too. Amidst the zany plot turns and one of the most surprisingly creative car chases ever put to film is a connective and universal reality that audiences will be able to identify with. This is no more the circumstance than in the relationship between its two lead characters, an overworked couple hoping to put some spice and excitement back into their marriage. Playing them, Steve Carel and Tina Fey are about as perfect as an onscreen pairing can get, their impeccable improvisational skills matched only by their honesty as performers.
Director Shawn Levy clearly knows when he has two actors that know funny and he lets them do their thing then picks the best bits, which allows for some incredibly strong laughs. Not all of it works and sometimes it gets a little silly, but Carell and Fey have a way of making even the silliest moments. There's still plenty of room for others in the cast to get laughs, whether it's a shirtless Mark Wahlberg, who plays up the gag so splendidly, he gets a laugh every time he shows up to open his door sans shirt, or James Franco and Mila Kunis as a very different couple from the Fosters.
The moments of the movie that don't work as well are when it gets into the actual crime-thriller aspect of the story. Few of the actors playing thugs and gangsters are particularly effective at being threatening, even Ray Liotta, typecast as the mob boss behind the overall plot.
Date Night is not a perfect film but the chemistry between the leads and Levy"s suddenly sure and steady hand delivers a superb, uproarious comedy.
Starring: Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Jimmi Simpson, Common, Ray Liotta, James Franco and Mila Kunis
Director: Shawn Levy