*To be honest, I lowered my expectations of Date Night as soon as I caught a glimpse of its groan-inducing, opening scene featuring Steve Carell wincing when a Breathe Right strip was yanked off the bridge of his nose.
After all, one of the rubber-faced comic’s most-memorable moments on screen was in The 40 Year-Old Virgin where he had the same reaction to having his chest hair waxed.
Fortunately, my fears that Date Night might be an unimaginative, derivative dud were soon allayed, as it was all uphill from there. In fact, this thoroughly-delightful screwball comedy turns out to be the funniest film of the year thus far.
Carell and co-star Tina Fey prove to be the perfect foils for each other’s brand of humor (slapstick and tongue-in-cheek, respectively) for the duration of this road flick which keeps the pair relentlessly on the run virtually from beginning to end. The two also manage to generate just enough chemistry along the way to convince you that they’re really a jaded, New Jersey couple whose marriage has gone stale.
At the point of departure, we learn that between raising two kids and draining careers which leave them with little energy by the end of the day, Phil and Claire Foster have come to feel more like roommates than lovers. And after hearing that their good friends Brad (Mark Ruffalo) and Haley (Kristen Wiig) are divorcing, they decide to spice up their relationship by having dinner at Claw, a very-trendy Manhattan restaurant.
However, they hire a babysitter (Leighton Meester) and travel all the way into the city only to be told by the dismissive maitre d’ (Nick Kroll) that they won’t be seated without a reservation. So, when no responds to the hostess’ (Olivia Munn) repeated calls for “The Tripplehorns,” Phil and Claire pretend to be the absentee party.
The plot subsequently thickens since the Fosters have no idea that “Tripplehorn” is the alias employed by a blackmailer (James Franco) in possession of a flash drive filled with incriminating information and photos. Both mobsters and crooked cops have staked out Claw in quest of the damning piece of evidence, and they seize on the clueless impersonators in a case of mistaken identity which can’t easily be explained.
The Fosters make a break for it, endeavoring to keep one step ahead of their pursuers while trying to make sense of the mess in which they’ve unwittingly embroiled themselves. The ensuing madcap adventure takes them up and downtown, across Central Park Pond and back to Greenwich Village, gradually building in intensity to culminate in a hilarious car chase scene with an Oscar-quality cameo by J.B. Smoove guaranteed to have you howling with laughter.
Besides the leads turning in terrific performances, accolades are in order for director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum 1 & 2) for stocking the cast with so many gifted thespians in support roles, especially James Franco, Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, William Fitchner, Mila Kunis, Will.i.Am and Leighton Meester. Such attention to detail makes a big difference in the final product and is likely to be well-rewarded by theater-going audiences everywhere.
The perfect date movie!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, violence, a drug reference and pervasive crude humor.
Running time: 88 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
To see a trailer for Date Night, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSV4Y2l7JQg