Date Night

In timing, delivery, and charisma, Tina Fey and Steve Carell are exactly who they always are, and this is a good thing.

Date Night

Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Common, William Fichter, James Franco, Mila Kunis
Rated: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2010
US date: 2010-04-09 (General release)
UK date: 2010-04-21(General release)

Rushing around her suburban New Jersey homestead, Claire (Tina Fey) tries to contain the roiling chaos of her family's morning routine. On her way out of the kitchen, she's stopped short by a tier of drawers left open. She grimaces. The meeting of kitchen drawers and mommy's knees has become de rigueur and Claire is desperate to change that pattern.

A similar monotony shapes Claire's relationship with her husband Phil (Steve Carell). He's a tax attorney and she's a real estate agent in Jersey, which is to say both endure soul-sucking careers. Once a week they schedule a "date night" and hire a babysitter. But date night, you soon learn in Date Night, is just as repetitive as the rest of their lives. They inevitably end up at the same restaurant, where they're served by the same waiter and eat the same meals -- week after week. When a pair of married friends announce their intent to break up because they've grown to be "really good roommates" more than lovers, Claire and Phil realize they too have come to take each other for granted and that they need to shake things up a bit. And so they take a journey on date night, into the wilds of Manhattan for dinner.

Once in the city, of course, mishaps and madcap-iness ensue. Neither the set-up nor the series of sticky situations the Fosters run into is fresh. You know that they will encounter some criminals, whether of the wise guy or gang-banger variety. There will be sexy shenanigans and mistaken identities. It's comedy ground that has been trod before in films like The Out of Towners (1970) and After Hours (1985).

Date Night knows this, and offers something of an homage to Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in the pairing of Fey and Carell, which produces similar comic excellence. If you watched any red-carpet film and television events over the past few months, you couldn't escape the two pulling extra duty promoting the film, and all the interviewers seemed on the same script by observing that finally Fey and Carell were working together.

No doubt about it, they are two of the funniest people working on screens big and small today, and watching them react to each other is a delight. But Date Night is also something of an ensemble film, with a number of excellent and surprising cameos. When Claire realizes that she has a former client who may be able to help them out of their crisis, and so she and Phil head over to his apartment. Phil is immediately flummoxed when Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg) answers the door, naked to the waist, perked up pecs shining with dewy sweat. Wahlberg's body may be notorious, but he also demonstrates here a smart deadpan delivery that is a perfect foil to Carell's mounting-fluster routine.

Phil is no less anxious when he meets drug-addled wannabe thieves "Taste" (James Franco) and "Whippet" (Mila Kunis). She calls Claire a "stupid skank," with the sort of matter-of-factness Kunis honed on That '70s Show, and so sets the juvenile tone for the rest of the encounter. Amid this agile sort of communication, Phil and Claire are way out of their league, and he's reduced to making up trash talk on the fly and failing miserably, telling Taste at one point to "zip your vagina." Still, Kunis steals the scene, in the aftermath of which Phil and Claire are left simply stunned.

Ultimately, however, this is Fey and Carell's movie. Sure, they are playing "Claire" and "Phil," but in timing, delivery, and charisma, they are exactly who they always are, and this is a good thing. The humor is also familiar from their previous work, in that it is wry, situational, and understated. In this Date Night is an excellent antidote to the spate of gross-out, boys-behaving-badly comedies currently dominating the genre.





Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.


Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.


'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.


IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".


Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.


Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.


Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.


Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.