Posted by: Dr P | April 29, 2010

Date Night

The Fosters are your typical middle class American married couple. They’re happy in their own lives, the kids are cute, their jobs go well … but the spark’s starting to die. Even their regular “date night” has become dull and predictable. So when they head off to New York City and gatecrash an exclusive seafood restaurant by – gasp – stealing the reservation of no-show couple “the Tripplehorns”, the events that unfold lead them on a wild ride that certainly adds a bit of zing and danger back to their lives.

I say “gasp” there, as one of the most-repeated themes of the film is everyone’s outrage at the fact that this average Joe couple have had the audacity – nay the outrageous cheek – to steal a New York City dinner reservation. Mind you, having once spent 45 minutes at the bar in Bolton’s Frankie and Benny’s, I have to say how annoying it is when you don’t get a table sharpish … and therein lies part of the problem with this film – it relies on cliche and small laughs rather than a consistently funny script. Tina Fey and Steve Carell are both highly experienced comedians with a deft touch and a happy knack of being both eminently watchable and downright funny. Sadly, the material they’re given here is mediocre at best. But that’s not to say the film is poor, it’s actually quite fun, in a way that would have worked just as well as a small screen rom-com or a straight to DVD release.

The Fosters find themselves drawn into a backstory in which “the Tripplehorns” (an alias cooked up on the grounds of the male partner being a fan of Jeanne Tripplehorn – hoo yes indeed) are blackmailing a major city figure, and this brings in all manner of supporting folk, including a pair of corrupt cops, the mayor, a local mob boss and even their calculating babysitter, who demands huge amounts when she discovers the kids are potentially in danger as well.

Essentially it’s a film about mistaken identity and how a tiny little lie can spiral hugely out of control. Tut tut. Rather than directly telling the police exactly what’s going on, the Fosters take it upon themselves to try and solve the problem and not only uncover the blackmail plot but then try and fix it all themselves. Seems a little bit silly. It’s kind of like saying “yeah I’ll have the caesar salad … oh what the hell, bring me the entire menu”. An example of this is when Steve Carell’s character Phil “borrows” a flashy sports car, there’s a whole scene in which he can’t get to grips with the gears and the controls … and then a minute later he’s pulling off complex evasive manoeuvres that wouldn’t have been out of place in The Fast and the Furious.

There are two standout bits of the film. The first is Mark Wahlberg’s character Holbrooke Grant, a former client of Claire Foster and someone they turn to in a moment of crisis. We all know that Marky Mark’s a pretty handsome guy … and this is played up to the max as he spends the entire movie shirtless. This does prompt Carell to bark the line “for the LOVE OF GOD will you PLEASE put ON a SHIRT”, which doesn’t seem especially funny out of context but is one of the better moments. Anyway, Wahlberg plays a decent cameo, and is engaging and watchable (no doubt even more so for the ladies). He also has an Israeli girlfriend, and their banter is especially amusing.

The second scene I liked is a minor classic. The Fosters wind up having to “perform” for the blackmailee at a seedy club – in order for them to get a minute of his time, they have to engage in some pole dancing, and this allows the central duo to really go to town with some stupendously silly antics which I laughed out loud at more than once. Very good indeed.

The plot’s resolved nicely and all ends as we might expect, back in suburbia. It’s an enjoyable enough hour and a half, but not something you should go out of your way to see. Probably best to wait for the DVD release unless you’re an especially big fan of Carell or Fey, or even Marky Mark’s jiggling pecs …

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