Date Night's breezy, one-joke premise keeps working, mostly because its hugely likable stars are so quick on their comedic feet. Steve Carell and Tina Fey use every bit of their old Chicago Improv DNA, hilariously adlibbing through a script that, in less nimble fingers, would fall flat.
They are Phil and Claire Foster, a suburban couple caught in a quotidian time-loop of paperwork, school lunches, soccer practices and tedious book clubs with neighbors. The mundane nine-to-five has dulled all their lives' sparkle (they even wear head-to-toe gray when routinely dining at their local steak house). Their fantasies are tiny too: She longs for alone time in an air-conditioned room with a diet Sprite while he's been having the same erotic dream for decades, starring Cyndi Lauper.
To shake it up, Phil plans a night out at a hip Manhattan eatery, and then poaches a reservation when the wait at the bar seems impossible. That's a bad call, 'cause armed thugs soon descend on their table looking for "the Tripplehorns," demanding a USB drive filled with sensitive info. Poor Claire can't even finish her heavenly risotto before the couple is dodging bullets and running from crooked cops and mobsters, climaxing in a car chase of Blues Brothers proportions.
Director Shawn Levy has plenty of dreck on his résumé, including the nadir of Steve Martin's career (Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen), but this time he wisely steps aside and mostly lets his stars work their natural magic. Such absurdly silly insults as "shut your vagina, Raymond Burr" can only work when you let them rip, as proven by the extended blooper reel behind the credits. And there are hilarious cameos including James Franco, Mila Kunis, Smooth B and, of course, Ray Liotta, who's always eager to mock his tough-guy persona for yuks.
Fey and Carell shine on NBC's otherwise dim primetime schedule, but their bids for film stardom have fairly fizzled. But here, and thankfully, they have each other to play off. Date Night is content to keep it loose, to trade consistent giggles for big cheap guffaws, and sometimes that's enough for a fun night out.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.