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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Date Night

Title: Date Night

Year of Release: 2010

Date Viewed: August 10th, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Imagine if an ordinary romantic date turned into a night of running away from mobsters and corrupt cops. Date Night is a worst case scenario example of how one seemingly harmless attempt to work the system backfires into a gigantic mess.

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are Phil and Claire Foster, an ordinary New Jersey couple that are happy for the most part but seem to be getting restless with their routine lives. One night per week is set up as a "date night" where the two eat out at a restaurant and take a break from watching over their children.

After learning that their best friends are on the verge of a divorce, Phil begins to get nervous about his own marriage, wondering if perhaps the recent case of boredom is foreshadowing something.

So to add a little excitement to their lives, Phil convinces Claire to take their date night to a popular (and steep priced) seafood restaurant in busy New York City. It's a nice idea except that there are no seats available as it's a place that often has tables reserved for weeks ahead of time. Insistent on making this night special, Phil and Claire claim a table reserved for the Tripplehorns, taking their identity for the night.

The couple enjoy their little harmless scam until a rough looking pair of men approach. They are questioned about the location of a flash drive that supposedly belongs to mob boss, Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta). Phil tries to convince the men that they are not really the Tripplehorns and that the whole thing is a misunderstanding. Not buying their defense, the men stalk the couple everywhere around New York City in an attempt to re-acquire the flash drive, not realizing they are chasing the wrong people.

Phil and Claire decide that the only way to get out of this mess is to locate the real Tripplehorns and escape back to their ordinary lives. But can they stay alive long enough to succeed?

The story had a clear beginning, set pieces for the middle act and a clear ending. The rest was left up to the improvisational skills of Carell and Fey who were basically given the task of carrying the movie. Kind of an odd request considering the amount of supporting talent that was available. Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and James Franco all show up in minor roles but seemed to be restrained so as not to upstage Carell and Fey's game of trying to come up with the cleverest dialogue for each scene. The large number of post credit outtakes give you an idea of how many punchline options the director was spoiled with. As is the case with most improvisation, the results are hit and miss. It most likely will not appeal to fans of "proper" comedy. Fans of the actors' delivery style shouldn't mind however.

The best moments of the movie are set in situations that were planned from the start. There is an amusing car chase involving an innocent taxi cab driver that has no ghastly clue what is going on. There is also a scenario that involved Carell and Fey attempting a dual seductive nightclub dance in order to get closer to the folks that have targeted them for assassination. (It kind of makes sense when viewed in context.)

The moments that bog the film down are when the actors struggle to come up with a decent line to get past a dead spot in the script.

And that's about it. Humor is too subjective for me to get into further detail as to why certain things are funny or not. Your odds of enjoying Date Night are about the same as a coin flip. Though it just occurred to me that perhaps the best situation for viewing the film revolves around its title.

Rating: 6

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