Two funny people with great comic chemistry take us for a night on the town in Date Night.
Tina Fey and Steve Carell are the Fosters, a couple worried that work, marriage and kids have made them stale. They take us along on a meal they'll never forget and a mistaken-identity misadventure involving crooks, crooked cops, car and boat chases, and a visit to a pricey New York sex-show strip club.
They take us about as far as director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Pink Panther) will let them. This brief, middle-of-the-road, middlebrow giggler lacks the pace or the punch to give us and the Fosters a night to remember.
The New Jersey suburbanites see a couple they do book club with (Mark Ruffalo, unusually animated, and Kristen Wiig) split up and recognize the warning signs in their own marriage — exhaustion, over-scheduled kids, infrequent intercourse. Their "date nights" have become chores.
Claire, the real estate agent, decides to get dolled up to break the routine. Phil, that wild-man tax accountant, takes the bait. "I'm taking you to dinner ... in the city." They drop in, sans reservations, at a trendy new seafood place. And when they can't get a table and hear names of folks who haven't shown up called out, the Fosters become the Tripplehorns. But they don't even make it to the dessert menu when all Hell's Kitchen breaks loose.
Best running gag? Everybody — the crooks who refuse to believe they're not who they said they were, the cops who hear their story, the real Tripplehorns (James Franco and Mila Kunis, a hoot) — is shocked that they'd take somebody else's reservation.
"What kind of people are you?"
Even Claire's helpful former real- estate client who has a handy "black ops" security background (Mark Wahlberg) is put out.
The Fosters swipe a car, a motorboat, clothes and identities, all in an effort to make the bad guy (Ray Liotta) see they're not the cunning criminals he and his minions think they are.
Fey flirts and Carell kvetches, Wahlberg goes shirtless and Liotta eats Italian. No surprises there.
What really clicks is the couple at the core. Shrek screenwriter Josh Klausner might not have had enough jokes, and Fey, the funniest person on the set, might not have felt like helping. But the Fosters' "reality" of perky, early-early-riser kids and gooey mouth guards that signal "no sex tonight" will have more than a few couples at Date Night wincing (and grinning) in recognition.