‘Date Night’: Get Smarter

“Date Night” is “Adventures in Babysitting” for adults. For those who do not recall the little ‘80s classic, Elisabeth Shue stars as Chris Parker, a teen whose quiet evening of suburban childcare takes a wild turn in the big city in a series of misadventures.

“Babysitting” was a modest hit when released in 1987, grossing $34 million, but became one of those reliable cable staples years later. It was a film that aired repeatedly and its inoffensive, situational humor was always good for a dependable chuckle or two.

“Date Night” reimagines that film, but this time while the kids are with the sitter, it’s the adults whose night veers far off course from its planned course. The results are predictably, safely amusing, made better by the comedic sensibilities of its leads 

Steve Carell and Tina Fey are able to supersede the direction of Shawn Levy, who’s a master at mediocrity (with flavorless films like “Just Married,” and the remakes of both “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Pink Panther” littering his resume). Even though we never quite buy them as an old married couple whose assembly-line life together leads little room for excitement, Fey and Carell exhibit a chemistry of two longtime comedic comrades.

They are Claire and Phil Foster whose break from the parenting routine has even become routine: same restaurant, same menu items, same exhaustion-trumps-sex end to the evening. After their close friends announce their separation, the Fosters make an effort to goose their grind, kicking it up on a night in NYC.

Their idea of danger is snaking into seats at a trendy, reservation-only restaurant, posing as a couple who fails to answer when their name is called. The result leads them on a journey from mere mistaken identity to eluding crooked cops, seedy politicians and shirtless Black Ops agents. Throughout, countless cameos punctuate the pandemonium (highlights include Mark Wahlberg as the hunky security agent, James Franco as a lowlife thug, and Ray Liotta as a criminal kingpin) and keep the controlled chaos moving at a brisk clip.

Requisite car chases, shootouts and strip club visits all occur in a PG-13-friendly parameters, but with Carell and Fey behind the proverbial wheel, it all occurs with their customary comedic flair, to much better effect than their other most recent starring vehicles (“Evan Almighty” and “Get Smart” for Carell, “Baby Momma” for Fey). Their everyday good looks also helps keep the situational anarchy grounded in some form of reality.

And while the script from Josh Klausner may be nonsensical at times for the sake of furthering the plot, it allows both Carell and Fey ample room for improv, and occasionally nails the banalities (and fears) of domesticated living.

“Date Night” is not a film that will go down as iconic as Carell’s “40-Year-Old Virgin” by any means, but it will be a film that fulfills its titular promise as a satisfying diversion worthy of hiring a sitter, offering safe-but-effective comedy powdered with enough explosions and heart to appeal to either gender demographic. There are also some moments of mommy- and daddy-approved eye candy thanks to both Wahlberg and Fey (I would include Carell’s working the stripper pole bit, but I think if you find that sexy, it would actually be considered a fetish of some sort).

And in a decade from now, “Date Night” will become a film that, when casually channel surfing, you will happily revisit and always leave amused.

~ by usesoapfilm on May 3, 2010.

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