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Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Movie Title: Date Night (2010) 
Spoilers: none

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Steve Carell and Tina Fey star in Date Night, a mostly adult-oriented romantic comedy with a few laughs to go along with the piling loads of sarcasm, slapstick, and dry humor that comes your way.

How many movies will begin with playful children walking into parents' bedrooms and waking them up? Another question is, how much respect should one have for those who leave SNL to pursue full-on acting careers? Their success is like that of the typical Hollywood marriage. But maybe things are different with Fey. She has that...sexy, smart woman, quiet bookworm, vegetarian, bra-burning bitch...look to her. What's not to like??

Carell and Fey are Phil and Claire Foster, a married couple burdened down with three kids and more cares than they can remember to keep up with. Lacking sleep and a zesty love-life, they want something more...something more than meeting with friends to read books about the stress of a girl having her first period under Taliban rule. They're always trying to make everyone else happy except for themselves.

What better than a date night, an on-the-fly move where you dress up and pretend you're ten years younger and twenty years ballsier than you really are? Why not steal dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant and take old habits with you, like making jokes about the striking-out couple on a date sitting next to you? Let the wine do its work. Viola! Surely a nice evening awaits.

Not quite. When the Fosters get made under the name they took for the dinner reservations, they inherent a world of trouble. Their night isn't going to go as planned once they find they are wanted by Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta), a big-time crime boss who wants something from the people he thinks they are.

The night will prove eventful. Being chased by Disney movie sort of bad guys into out-of-the-way yet in-the-way abandoned shacks with lots of pipes and old boards to be pried up, there is danger everywhere—the kind you get out of by just grabbing something big and hitting the bad guys with. It always works in the kind of movies where the antagonists can never read people and are rather stupid. A motorboat stands ready outside for complete strangers to crank it up and use it for a getaway.

The Fosters have the luck of Corky Romano. They seem confident to almost everyone else, but they're not. But no one here is that sharp, not the good guys or the bad. This is true for everyone, except Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg), a wealthy former client of Claire's who hates wearing shirts, but knows how to hook up his friends.

They take the time – no, make the time – to discuss Cyndi Lauper sex fantasies and their marriage troubles in a borrowed Audi R8 while being chased by gunmen. Go ahead...just pull over in an Audi R8 and chat a bit before the gunshots start up again.

The Fosters' babysitter is a snot of a teen that loves money and hates to miss parties. Her presence, much like the presence of certain other characters, you barely see (and you should be thankful). Most of these characters called for some refining. Take, for instance, Ray Liotta who makes a horrible mob boss with an “insta-tan” that comes off as real as a Uri Geller act, even in bad lighting. William Fichtner is DA Frank Crenshaw, a guy you just knew had some deep, dark secret.

The constant stream of sarcasm that is present throughout is at times more mentally heckling than humorous. It does occasionally give the movie its kick by instilling some potent moments of laughter, but those are somewhat of a rarity. Copious slapstick is often employed, enough to make some of us shake our heads.

With Fey bumping into file cabinets and screaming cab drivers getting spun around in busy intersections, it's just a wacky time for everyone when you knew (that for the plot's sake) it had to be. The dialogue is nothing if not creatively written. One of Fey's lines is: "They stabbed a chicken nugget with a sharpie! These are not good people!" Laugh at it if you can.

There are a few genuinely funny segments, a few mature and emotionally appreciable moments in the script for those who have endured the time-tattering anguish of marriage gone boring. And while the energy of the two leads does provide some likable stability to entertain, most of the characters are ridiculous and the plot is sketchy and is only workable when the details of it are gleefully ignored in a fit of cheap chuckling.

(JH)

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Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13 (language, violence, and adult situations)
Director: Shawn Levy
Summary: In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple's attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous.
Starring: Steve Carell "Phil Foster," Tina Fey "Claire Foster," Mark Wahlberg "Holbrooke," Taraji P. Henson "Detective Arroyo," Jimmi Simpson "Armstrong," Common "Collins," William Fichtner "DA Frank Crenshaw"
Genre: Comedy / Romance / Thriller
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