Saving this Date Not Required
By Kristen Page-Kirby
One has to assume that Tina Fey and Steve Carrell have some incriminating photos out there somewhere, because that’s the only reason I can imagine these two very smart, very funny people signed on to star in “Date Night.”
Luckily, they’re so smart and so funny, they almost save the film from itself.
Fey and Carrell are Claire and Phil Foster, a couple married for a respectable length of time—and have all the baggage that comes with that. They have a couple of kids, a house, jobs, friends. They’re also tired, because kids, houses, jobs and friends do that to you. However, they also follow what Ladies’ Home Journal says every couple should do and have a standing “date night” — which usually entails going to a movie, then to the same restaurant where they always eat, where they get the same dishes they always get.
Shaken by a divorce in their inner circle, they go into Manhattan for a dinner at the Hot New Place, where they swipe another couple’s reservation. The other couple turn out to be a couple of unsavory characters wanted by the mafia, so the German title for the film (“Gangster for a Night”) starts to make sense. There’s all this business about a flash drive and lots of guns and Mark Wahlberg shows up and meh.
The script really is stupid, but Carrell and Fey are funny enough and good enough actors to flesh out Phil and Claire to the point where they have one of the most real-life marriages I’ve ever seen. They clearly love one another—even more shocking, they LIKE one another—but somewhere along the line something went…flat. They don’t fight, they don’t seethe, it’s not a bad marriage. It’s a very real marriage. Fey in particular communicated the low-grade exhaustion that seems to accompany motherhood: she admits at one point that her “fantasy” is “a quiet room, where I can eat my lunch with no one touching me. And drink a Diet Sprite.” Aside from the Diet Sprite (I’m a Diet Coke gal), that’s…dangerously close to one of my fantasies.
The other fantasies I shall keep private.
There’s some off-color language, including one f-bomb and an extended scene where Carrell and a very funny James Franco, playing low-level lowlife Taste, tell one another “f you.” Only they say “eff,” not what “f” usually stands for. There’s talk of sex, both marital and non-, and some women appear scantily clad (Wahlberg also spends his entire time on screen with his shirt off.) There are lots and lots of guns and shooting, but no overt violence. There’s also an extended, painfully unfunny scene in a club of the type that the RNC likes to visit. Only this club probably has more glitter. Probably.
Really, though, this film would make a good movie for a date night. It’s short, and you do laugh out loud a number of times…and it might inspire you to try that new restaurant instead of your old standby.
Just don’t take anyone else’s reservations.
Previews at this screening were for “Predators,” “Ramona and Beezus,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” and “Oh Holy God Bradley Cooper are Those Actually Your Abs? Because Drool.” I mean “The A-Team.”
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family magazine. She last reviewed “How to Train Your Dragon.”