Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Title Says It All -- Reflections on "Date Night" (2010)

"You guys interested in joining the Funky Bunch?"

There's a quality moment early in Date Night when Phil Foster's (Steve Carrell) best friend, Brad (Mark Ruffalo) tells him that he and his wife, Haley (Kristen Wiig) are divorcing. There are no problems, specifically, in the marriage, he insists. It's just that they have become "high quality roommates."

This causes Phil to question the status of his marriage, leading to his decision to take his wife, Claire (Tina Fey) on a fancy night out in the city in order to spice things up. Well, things most certainly get spicy, and it's neither sex nor food that adds the seasoning, but an elaborate "wrong man" plot that both ruins the Foster's date night and causes them to re-evaluate the state of their marriage.

This is the sort of movie I can imagine a pastor showing clips of during lectures at a Christian Couples seminar to inspire conversation among troubled married couples.

Date Night is a fun movie, no more, no less. It's greatest strength lies in the chemistry between Carrell and Fey*, who are as believable a married couple I've ever seen in a comedic movie. They are both smart, witty, and uncomfortable, making them a perfect match. Seriously, if the tabloids had run stories of how they hooked up on set ala Brangelina, I would not have batted a shocked eyelash.

* Is it just me, or could this movie be interpreted as a 90-minute advertisement for NBC's Thursday night comedy line-up with The Office and 30 Rock?

With such talent at the production's disposal, though, it would have been nice to have a savvier script that could have played up more on the idea of the Foster's dark night as a metaphor for the state of their marriage. That's probably the English major in me talking, though. I want everything to be deeper than it is.

Nonetheless, the movie is not without it's high points, most notably Mark Wahlberg's topless turn as Holbrook Grant, an ex-military man/playboy Claire met in her career as a real estate agent. When Wahlberg's on screen, he's funny without even trying. Similarly, a scene involving James Franco and Mila Kunis as the drugged out couple the Foster's are mistaken for is funny (albeit a bit heavy-handed).

I think the title of the movie perfectly describes what the film is, and sometimes that's enough.

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