Date Night

Date Night


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Have you ever found yourself at a point in your life where you just want something - anything - to happen to make it more exciting? That's where Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire (Tina Fey) find themselves - middle aged, working all day in boring jobs, looking after demanding children, watching their best friend prepare to get divorced. But when an impulsive decision made on a night out together leads to a case of mistaken identity, they are suddenly plunged into a dangerous adventure that's more than they bargained for. Can it reignite the spark between them, and will they live long enough for that to matter?

Will you stay awake long enough for that to matter, is what the producers of this disaster ought to have been asking. I'm always a little wary of mistaken identity films - it usually means there'll be a lot of formulaic, tedious plotting to get through before any interesting story developments can occur. But the real problem with this film is that it was mistaken for a good idea.

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When playing it straight, Carell and Fey work well enough; their routine family mishaps and stresses make them sympathetic despite their blandness. Worn-out parents everywhere will identify with their plight. But once the comedy begins, it's painfully self-conscious, trying ultra hard to be wacky and repeatedly missing the mark. It sits uneasily alongside a weakly plotted gangster/blackmail story that exposes this hapless couple to really ugly violence, and the actors' unwillingness to engage with this emotionally makes them seem cartoonish, robbing the film of any narrative tension. Kids may enjoy the centrepiece car chase but its inventiveness is really limited to a single gag. Well observed interludes of marital bickering just make the poor motivation of later actions more obvious - the story has been lazily strung together to try and work in a series of mediocre set pieces.

Taraji P Henson, as a sympathetic detective, delivers pretty much the only decent performance in this film, and is wasted in a minor role. There's a cameo from Mark Wahlberg who has sensibly been given a lightweight role and who wanders around without his shirt all the time, which should at least keep some of his fans happy. Beyond that, there's really no reason to go and see this, unless your marriage is on the rocks too and you want to get a quickie divorce on grounds of intolerable cruelty.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2010
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A married couple's plan to hit the town goes badly awry.
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