Let’s face it. Any marriage can become safe and boring if you stay together long enough. Take Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) in DATE NIGHT (88 mins. PG-13)
He’s a tax lawyer. She’s a real estate agent. The couple have two bratty youngsters and a nice home in the suburbs of New Jersey.
Once a week they escape to their favourite restaurant for a date night. They always order the same dishes (potato skins and salmon) and talk about the kids.
Even sex seems like an effort. (Phil: “It’s totally cool if we don’t. “ CLAIRE: “Are you sure? Because those potato skins made me feel kind of gassy.”)
Sure, they love each other. But they are not “in love” anymore.
Where’s the passion? Where’s the spontaneity?
The Fosters are not the only couple who feel that there is something missing in the marital bond.
“We are stuck in these roles together and we can’t break out of them,” Brad (Mark Ruffalo) confides to Phil while his wife, Haley (Kristen Wiig) tells Claire “I feel like we know each other too well. It’s always the same conversations, the same schedule.”
What’s the solution? Brad and Haley are getting a divorce. Phil decides to take his wife to New York for dinner.
Talk about spontaneity. The Fosters get plenty of it when they are mistaken for a con artist couple who have stolen something valuable from a Bad Apple gangster (Ray Liotta) and are chased all over Manhattan by a couple of crooked cops (rapper/actor Common, Jimmi Simpson).
Both Fey and Carell demonstrate deft comedy chops in their respective TV hits (she’s the creator/star of 30 Rock; he’s the heart and soul of The Office). I wish they could have brought the writers from those shows with them because most of this movie plays like one of those unfunny Saturday Night Live skits.
Director Shawn Levy knows how to orchestrate a good car chase but seems to leave the funny stuff up to the cast.
To be honest I didn’t laugh out loud once during the film’s mercifully brief running time.
But then I’m a crusty old English major soberly scribbling down notes while watching the movie alone in a darkened room on a weekday afternoon.
This movie probably plays better if you invite some friends on a Friday night and serve tons of pizza and beer.
Fey and Carell strive mightily to inject some color into Josh Klausner’s paint-by-numbers script and they are so darn likeable in the role they almost succeed.
There is a little romance, a lot of chase scenes and a great cast, even in the small roles. (Mark Wahlberg plays a shirtless security expert in a sly spoof of his action hero image. James Franco and Mila Kunis have cameos as the real con artist couple.)
And I’m betting more than a few housewives will nod in weary recognition when Claire tells her hubby “sometimes I just wanna have one day that doesn’t depend on how everybody else’s day goes.”
Y’know, I would probably like the Fosters if I met them in real life. I might even feel comfortable enough with them to enjoy a movie that is kinda lame but gets by on enormous personal charm.
PIZZA AND BEER RATING: 3 Slices out of Five