Thursday, September 2, 2010

DVD Spotlight: Taking a blind date with Date Night

I happened to see Date Night quite by chance at my friend's house not too long ago, and was pleasantly surprised.

There's a little something called a screwball comedy that Hollywood seems to have forgotten the significance of, but Date Night brings it back with a vengeance.

There is something delightfully forgettable about Date Night. It's like a glittering glass of champagne you had at the beginning of the evening, and the next day you can almost remember what it tasted like, and yet not enough to readily identify what the brand was to buy it for next time. Date Night has no real need to actually exist; it just happens to be a whole lot of fun.

Steve Carell plays Phil Foster, a decent guy with a hardworking wife Claire (Tina Fey) and a couple kids living in New Jersey. Claire has a demanding job as a real estate agent, but in an effort to keep some of the romance alive, they have a date night every week. However, even that has become dull and routine. Phil, determined that he's not going to let the spark die out completely in the monotony of their lives, decides to take Claire out to New York City for dinner at the most posh seafood place in town. When they can't get a seat, they take someone else's reservation. They get mistaken for criminals, the chase is on, and hilarity ensues.

Could there be a more perfect pairing of great, talented comedians? What is so charming about watching Fey and Carell act together is you can actually believe these two people would be married to one another. It is comedy with a razor-sharp edge - jokes about infidelity, c-sections, and the like are thrown around with wild abandon. And the few heartfelt talks about marriage sprinkled here and there are sincere without slowing down the film's momentum. And Mark Wahlberg is brilliant as Grant Holbrooke, the swaggering, hot macho guy who hates shirts and becomes an integral part of the poor Fosters getting their identity back.

The only shame is that it all goes by a bit too fast. I got to the end of the film and wondered if there could've been a slightly more coherent plot, but perhaps you're not supposed to think too hard. The genius is in the moments where Claire asks for her husband's coat and he gallantly lends it to her, believing she's cold, only to see her wrap it around her fist and punch her way through a glass door to enter a locked building. To which Phil responds, quite reasonably, "Who ARE you??"

It is interesting to see how this film is a throwback to the capers such as "A Fish Called Wanda" and yet uses a brand of humor that is reflective of people's current tastes now - many of the jokes are so funny because they are so true, and as an old friend of our family once said, "If we weren't all laughing, we'd be crying."

The kind of bawdy, over-the-top humor so indicative of successful films in the 90s (such as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective) has stepped aside in this case for a more sarcastic, edgy humor that tries to put a wry grin on the face of cold reality. In other words - it hurts so good.

Date Night reminds us that win the shit hits the fan, all we have is each other. And that's something no one should ever take for granted.

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