Surprise: Calculation leads to diverting pleasure in this engineered from top to bottom studio movie
film from a queer perspective
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Surprisingly Satisfying:
Date Night
4-9-10 KATM Exclusive Review
By Richard Knight, Jr.
It reads like a recipe for a thousand movies: pair two audience friendly television stars with
stratospheric Q ratings and merging film careers in a familiar, audience friendly comedy penned by a
writer with a reputation for delivering familiar, audience friendly comedies helmed by a director noted
for – you got it – none too taxing, familiar, audience friendly comedies.  Add just enough canny
laughs, rely on the ability of your stars to deliver enough moments of their familiar though individual,
patented comedic schtick, and seal the deal with enough offbeat, supporting comic talent to once in
awhile throw the audience off kilter for good measure.  

The result, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, written by Josh Klausner (
Shrek the Third and Shrek
Forever After
) and directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum 1 and 2) is the biggest surprise of all.  
All this calculation actually adds up to if not the greatest comedy, at least what might be the new
definition of the perfect date movie.  There are enough smart cultural observations to go with the
familiar situations to keep things percolating along, a minimum of dumbed down frat boy moments
and scatological exchanges, and a recurring bit with a shirtless Mark Wahlberg that will keep the
ladies and gay men very happy.  Naturally the picture is also called
Date Night but even saddled
with this additional bland calculation on the part of the filmmakers, it offers enough star wattage and
laughs to recommend it.

Carell and Fey play a happily married couple going through a bla patch.  Hemmed in by career and
kid demands as they approach mid-life, they decide to throw caution to the wind during one of their
regular “date nights” (this scenario will be very familiar to many long term gay couples as well).  
Instead of having dinner at their usual suburban New Jersey location, they opt for a night at a fancy,
trendy restaurant in Manhattan called Claw.  In for a penny, in for a pound, they ignore the snippy,
gay maitre’d’s none too subtle hints to shove off (a hilarious Nick Kroll) and end up stealing the
reservation of another couple – whom they are then mistaken for by the bad guys, ala Cary Grant in
North By Northwest.  

An increasing series of calamities ensues.  As the fish out of water couple drops down the Manhattan
rabbit hole ala
The Out of Towners and After Hours, encountering more and more trouble and eccentric
characters (with James Franco and Mila Kunis, the movie’s knock out, comedic standouts), they find,
like Dorothy, that, indeed, there’s no place like home.  We are rest assured, naturally, that they’ll get
there, their mojo reignited, once they’ve gone through a series of humiliating (and somewhat
humorous) trials that, naturally, will include a visit to a strip club offering both stars a chance to work
the stripper pole.  That the movie doesn’t tax the talents of the stars or the patience of the audience
turns out to be in its favor.  

Date Night’s other surprise – and it’s a refreshing one – is that it offers a healthy dose of sweetness in
place of condescension, satirizes the overwhelming snark and impatience found in today’s culture with
a modicum of finesse, and actually manages to deliver these insights to a normally attention
deficient audience with just the right amount of knowingness to keep them from fidgeting –
something I’d thought inconceivable in this day and age.
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