Date Night

Posted on August 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

Putting Tina Fey and Steve Carell together seems so natural it’s hard to believe that it took this long. Both are funny in part because they let us see how smart they are. The characters they play on television may be clueless (about some things in her case, about pretty much everything in his), but they are clever about their cluelessness. They make us lean in a little, listen a little more closely — we have to up our game a bit to make sure we catch all the fine points, which are actually pretty fine. This is one movie where the closing credit out-takes are worth the wait.

They are perfectly cast in “Date Night” as a suburban couple who feel that they are in a bit of a rut. Their lives are so dull that when they are out together they amuse each other by inventing conversations about more interesting lives for the couples around them. So instead of their usual weekly outing to a suburban restaurant for potato skins and salmon, they go into Manhattan for a big night out on the town at a trendy restaurant. And then everything goes wrong, wronger, and wrongest, and funny, and funnier, and if not funniest, funny enough for making your own date night worth the cost of the tickets and babysitter.

I like the way they do not go for the usual easy laughs based on incompetence and misunderstandings — at least not between the couple. Of course there are a lot of misunderstandings with everyone around them when Phil (Carell) impulsively lies about who he is in order to score a table at a fancy restaurant. It turns out that the name he has appropriated is the nom de crime of a couple who have stolen something that some very nasty people want back very badly. This leads Phil and Claire (Fey) on a wild goose chase all over Manhattan.

What I like best about this movie is that it avoids the usual easy laughs that come from incompetence and mistrust. Claire and Phil may be in way over their heads, but they never lose the essential sweetness of their connection. They — and Fey and Carell — always seem to be getting a kick out of each other. As actors and as human beings, both have an authentic understanding of the rhythms of marital shorthand (and sometime short-changing). They always have each other’s backs. And a constant stream of expert guest performers in supporting roles keeps the movie fresh and energetic. Director Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum movies) knows how to blend action and comedy and this time he’s even added in some heart.

Related Tags:


Action/Adventure Comedy

18 Replies to “Date Night”

  1. This seems like an awfully positive review for only a “B” grade. Without encouraging grade inflation, I’m curious what kept it, in your mind, from being a “B+” or and “A-“?
    Regardless, this sounds like a winner. We’re big Tina Fey and Steve Carrell fans around here.

  2. Wendy, I really wavered on this one between a B (meets the expectations of its intended audience) and a B+ (exceeds the expectations). As I said in the review, it was funnier but not funniest — the script is not up to the level of the performers. But I am a big Carell and Fey fan, too. You’ve persuaded me to go for a B+, without fear of grade inflation. When you see it, let me know what you think!


  4. Hi, Nell. This is on my list, definitely. When I saw the preview, I immediately thought to myself, “George Kaplan, paging George Kaplan?”

  5. Indeed. Of course, “North by Northwest” is one of my all-time-favorite Hitchcock movies. (It’s tied with “Rear Window” for my favorite.)

  6. Sorry, D+ here. How did 2 of today’s funniest stars find the script with the lamest jokes? I didn’t laugh once. I think my husband laughed only once. And, for other parents of 12 to 13 year olds; don’t be fooled by the PG-13. We brought our almost 13 year old son and his almost 13 year old friend and after the movie I had to call the friends’ mother up and apologize for misjudging the movie’s appropriateness.

  7. Thanks, BostonPies! Appreciate the comment. And I tried to warn parents that the movie includes sexual references including humor about group sex and various sexual acts and activities (lap dances, prostitution, strippers), scenes in strip club with skimpy clothes and pole dancing with the parental advisory notes in my review.

  8. My husband and I laughed until we cried, great movie, have been married for 34 yrs., so we certaintly understood the rut part, but this made us come out of the theater feeling good.

  9. My husband and I loved the movie! I haven’t heard my husband laugh like that in a long time. 🙂
    For the record, I don’t EVER trust the PG-13 rating. If I see PG-13 I assume I’d rather not have my 13 year old see it. Or I find sites like this one. I never trust the rating system.

  10. Very wise on both points, Shelly! I am so glad you and your husband had a great date night! And you should never trust a PG-13. Thanks for a great comment.

  11. I saw “Date Night” this weekend, Nell. Very cute, and I detected another possible shout out to “North by Northwest.” The character played by Mark Wahlberg was named Holbrook Grant.

  12. Some mentioned the dream that Tina Fey had. I have not seen movie, can you tell me what the subject of the dream was?

  13. I have to agree with bostonpies comment. I did not do my usual ‘check out what Nell said’ as I had a parent whose opinion I trusted… big mistake!!! My husband and I were mortified and had to ask our daughter to leave the room (we rented the dvd) as it was definitely not appropriate for her. We were disappointed in the movie, we thought the script relied two heavily on sexual references, scenes related to such and overuse of them (put a shirt on). True Lies is mentioned above, although it did have an element to that which is very similar, it was not presented as coarsely manner and heavily laden with it. I think that Steven and Tina’s comic genius didn’t get a chance to shine as much as it could have. Hopefully if they make another movie, it will have a better script.

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