I watched “Date Night” by myself at home, and all the while could only think of how much better it would be if indeed I were a 40-something father, stuck in a comatose marriage like Phil Foster (Steve Carell) and his wife Claire (Tina Fey). In fact, if my future wife and I decided to go see the film in theatre, as a date, the relevance – and humour – would be ten-fold. You could, of course, belong to any demographic and still enjoy the film, but the marriage gags are integral to the script such that a lot is lost to the unmarried viewer.
The Fosters are in need of a little adventure, eager not to travel down the same path as two of their friends, once married but now split. For them, life got into a merciless routine, they knew everything about each other, and the question mark that keeps people curious, interested and willing to leap into the future was suddenly gone.
But Phil decides to delight his wife with some adventure; when hearing the host at an upscale Manhattan restaurant call for the Triplehorns, a couple that seems to be absent, he claims that he and his wife are them. Two thugs then mistake them as being the Triplehorns, and just like that, their banter over what to order becomes banter on how to survive.
Part of the film’s appeal is the deliciously clichéd tough man thuggery, a tongue-in-cheek mockery of the cookie-cutter bad guy roles key to action films. To that end, the two thugs giving chase to the Fosters do a great job, especially in contrast to Carell’s and Fey’s expertly portrayed suburban genteelness.
The rest of the star-studded cast seem to be characters who, to imbue the Fosters’ lives with a sense of excitement, are all on some sort of tangent. Among them: Mark Wahlberg, Mark Ruffalo, Common, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Ray Liotta, William Fichtner and Will.i.am, who all take secondary and minor roles.
One humourous scene is when the Fosters encounter a couple that feeds them the whole “victims of a crazy chain of unexpected circumstances and can we please have some money” speech, and they dismiss it a scam, only to find themselves telling the same story to another couple, albeit truthfully, later on.
Another pertains to a broom, yes, a broom.
There are other gems, too, most related to the corny stereotypes surrounding corrupt authority figures and well-meaning middle-class white folk. Carell and Fey feed off of each other superbly, so much so that I laughed out loud at least three or four times at some of their senseless musings. Although Carell is heavily typecast, it could be because he pulls off the charming idiot shtick so well. His accents, his attempts to fit in with the cool crowd – they complement Fey’s equally conformity-seeking tendencies to a tee.
The comedy ultimately sheds light on what it takes to maintain a successful marriage – giving up control and sharing experience with your spouse. These are nice touches that should leave married viewers with a pleasant impression. For the rest of us, at least we know what we have to look forward to.