Phil Foster (Steve Carell, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin) and his wife Claire (Tina Fey, 30 Rock) are a regular married couple, living an average suburban life complete with tedious jobs, boisterous children, and an extremely predictable and repetitive schedule; which they aim to change on their next ‘Date Night.’
Like everything else in their lives, date night is a regularly scheduled event for the Fosters; so much so that even their friend and babysitter know exactly which restaurant they return to every week, what they’ll order, and what time they’ll be home; so when two of their closest friends decide to get a divorce on the grounds of their lives becoming too boring, and their relationship degenerating into a roommate situation with no spark, they decide it’s time to change things up, and go all out a date night to remember.
And this is surely a night the Fosters aren’t likely to forget; as their respectable (yet not overly ambitious) plans, of driving into Manhattan (from their home in New Jersey) for a nice meal, at a posh restaurant, soon fall apart; as they quickly get mistaken for a couple of lowlife thugs (after taking their reservation at the restaurant), and threatened by a couple of larger thugs who work for one of New York City’s most influential kingpins; Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta, Goodfellas).
They then spend the movie trying to evade the thugs (who believe the Fosters stole an important flash drive from them), find the real thugs who they’ve been mistaken for (in order to clear their name), convince the police that they are completely innocent of everything that happens; something that becomes increasingly difficult as the night descends, and they end up breaking into several places, stealing, and getting involved in a high-speed car chase, among other things; and attempt to make it back home to their kids in one piece.
Obviously the plot is ridiculous, unbelievable, and downright absurd, but succeeds in being not only watchable, but enjoyable, because it never attempts to be anything more than it is; an utterly silly, harmless, laugh-out-loud, comedy that’s a whole lot of fun; thanks largely to being headlined by two comedy greats (Fey and Carell), the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in, and the funny performances of numerous guest stars.
Among those with guest roles are Ray Liotta (who plays kingpin Joe Miletto); in another comedy gangster role that is apt and accessible, yet saddening in that it reminds audiences of the former roles that made his career (as Joe is a far cry from Ray’s character Henry in Goodfellas); Mark Wahlberg (The Departed); in an average performance as a rich acquaintance of Claire’s, whose main gag is never wearing a shirt; and William Fichtner (Prison Break); as a hilarious, and slightly twisted, District Attorney that he plays excellently; as well as James Franco (127 Hours), Mila Kunis (The Book of Eli), Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island), and J.B. Smoove (Hurricane Season).
But Steve and Tina are clearly the driving force of the film; not necessarily through superior acting talent, but due to their excellent comic timing and execution; which saw a good deal of their work comedically improvised, and makes both of their over-the-top reactions to situations very funny (because whilst seeing a gun be pulled on most people would be shocking, listening to Steve’s screams and ramblings make it downright hilarious); as does their chemistry, and while at first it may be difficult to imagine the pair forging a life together, they play off each other very well, and never overshadow one another.
Date Night obviously won’t go down in history having gained the same amount of reverence as say Citizen Cane, Gone With the Wind, or even There’s Something About Mary, but nevertheless it’s a fun little piece of escapism that relishes in its absurdity, and gives audiences plenty to laugh at for an hour and a half, making it a solid comedy that’s surely worth a look.
Even less memorable will be the DVD’s picture quality, as despite having a well rendered, brightly lit, colour palette, acceptable contrast, warm and natural looking skin tones, and adequate black levels, the video can get a little hazy, or appear softer, in certain sections, and has a fairly flat feel overall.
Clarity is acceptable, backgrounds look great, and the overall level of detail is generally very good (but as Date Night was filmed in High Definition that’s to be expected), leaving very little to actually complain about; particularly as there are no noticeable print errors or compression issues to speak of; and the image does have a certain cinematic charm to it, but generally feels like there’s something missing, and fails to be anything more than average, when compared to most other new releases.
In terms of sound quality however, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix awarded to Date Night’s DVD transfer is certainly better than average, and certainly shines where it counts; being a comedy film it’s the dialogue that’s the most important part of the mix, and it is always handled excellently, remaining well positioned (generally anchored in the front and center), perfectly clear, and easily intelligible, even in the most crazed and ruckus filled scenes; where never a single word gets lost or mangled in the confusion, making some of the film’s throwaway lines that much funnier.
There’s also a good deal of sound emanating from the rear channels, solid musical reproduction, and infrequent, yet commanding, bass that really makes its presence be known when appropriate, and combine with the excellent dialogue to make an auditory experience that isn’t completely engrossing, or awe inspiring, but makes for a mix that is more than you would likely expect from an average comedy.
Another area where the Date Night DVD is severely lacking, is in its special features; being in that is basically doesn’t have any; as all that is included (aside from a digital copy; which is always a nice inclusion, but not quite the same as a behind the scenes featurette, short sketch, or audio commentary) is a generic gag-reel that may be pretty funny, but is rendered largely useless when considering that a large number of outtakes are played during the movie’s closing credits; making it a real let down for fans of the movie.
The Bottom Line:
In the end, Date Night is a fairly generic, throwaway comedy that has it’s fair share of laugh-out-loud moments, some outrageous situations, and a number of entertaining guest spots that are actually pretty funny (William Fichtner’s especially), and should please most comedy fans.
The DVD itself is nothing to shout about; the the picture is adequate, yet fairly flat at the same time, and while the audio is better than that of many films in the same genre, the disc is heavily let down by the lack of special features, which come as a major disappointment for a movie this big (but will undoubtedly look and sound much better on Blu-ray).
So all in all the Date night DVD is certainly worth a look; because despite the ridiculous plot, it’s a whole lot of fun, and is sure to entertain any fan of the loud, brash, thoroughly American, comedies that Tina Fey and Steve Carell are famous for (and they both find plenty of place to shine here, always doing what they do best); and while the disc may be nothing special, it’s definitely worth a rent; even if it’s for nothing more than to score a few laughs and to whittle away an hour and a half with some entertaining jokes, and two of America’s best comedy actors (although it should be noted that people who dislike watching Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and the U.S. comedy style that they are famous for, aren’t likely to enjoy Date Night).