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Tina Fey and Steve Carell

"Date Night"; a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Talk about a propitious time to release "Date Night": just two short months after Sarah Palin inked core values on her hand to recall for a little talk she was about to make at a Tea Party bash in Nashville. To remember a phone number that's an important plot point in "Date Night," Tina Fey's character, Claire Foster, (a Realtor) scribbles it on her hand. Although this movie has plenty of side-splitting dialogue, that stroke of the "Sharpie" Tina makes on her epidermis could be the most inadvertently funny sight joke to be enjoyed in a motion picture. For sure: the scene in "Date Night" was shot well before Mrs. Palin put pen to palm, but the seemingly prophetic film bit in director Shawn Levy's new picture sure does rake in the laughter.

Laughing is what "Date Night" will make you do, too, not just because Tina Fey (SNL, "30 Rock") is the female lead, but that she shares billing with another really fine comic actor, Steve Carell ("The Office," "Little Miss Sunshine"). He plays Phil Foster, a tax accountant and Claire's husband.

The Fosters have two young children and are specifically identified twice in the movie as a boring couple from New Jersey. They love each other, but the marriage has gone on long enough for both Phil and Claire to sense that the flame has begun to flicker in their relationship.

What could perk up a husband and wife more than going out on the town (that being New York City) for some expensive seafood at The Crab and rubbing shoulders with the slightly younger and so totally more hip and with-it, single population that hangs out on Manhattan Island?

The fancy eatery is jammed. Tables are at a premium, so Phil and Claire jump claim on some no-show folks who did make their Crab reservations. That party of two has "Tripplehorn" for a name. Phil and Claire suddenly become the Tripplehorns and are shown to a table.

After a bit of zany dialogue between Carell and Fey, two shady-looking dudes approach the Fosters, er, I mean, the "Tripplehorns" and strong-arm the couple away from their table and out to the alley behind The Crab. Guess who's in trouble with a nasty New York mob boss for having something they shouldn't have. If you'd say the Tripplehorns, you've just discovered the engine that makes this funny movie percolate: nothing like mistaken identity to crank up laughs.

When he finally shows up in "Date Night," just how nasty is the mob boss? Well, you'll know the answer to that when I tell you this character, and I do mean character, is named Joe Miletto and he's played by Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas").

Those important digits Claire scribbles on her hand ring the cell phone of a former Realtor colleague of Claire's named Holbrooke. Mark Wahlberg ("Boogie Nights") plays that part. And gals, Mark doesn't seem to be wearing a shirt in any scene he's in. Thought you might like to know that.

Fey, Carell and Mark Wahlberg,

Holbrooke and the svelte Israeli lady (Gal Gadot) who's his sleep over guest are interrupted more than once by the involuntary stimulation the hapless Fosters are now experiencing in their ho-hum marriage gone action-packed.

Phil and Claire's big night in the Big Apple takes an even more dangerous vector as it turns out the cops involved in this caper are, mostly, bad cops and the other couple they finally meet, whom they think are the Tripplehorns, are really big trouble---big time.

James Franco ("In the Valley of Elah") is cast as Taste, and his "old lady" is called Whippit. Mila Kunis ("That '70s Show", "Extract") plays her. They're an edgy but goofy pair worth even more chuckles.

Mila Kunis and James Franco

As a Tulsan, I was thinking "Jeanne" whenever "Tripplehorn" is mentioned in the script. Sure enough---finally---there's a bit in "Date Night" that brings the Tulsa film actor and her name into further play for a couple of those things we've come to know as Steve Carell Moments.

"Date Night" is fun, but its funness would have been less without the cast that got the gig. Carell and Fey are accomplished, smart actors, and the smaller parts are done by some other pretty darned good players, as well, like Mark Ruffalo ("Shutter Island") and Kristin Wiig (SNL, "Extract" and soon to be seen in "MacGruber") with Taraji P. Henson turning in a solid small performance as a sassy Afro-American NYPD detective lady who tends to not take many prisoners. Even rapper and songwriter will.i.am is fleetingly seen in the swanky Crab restaurant as himself.

I was hoping that Jeanne Tripplehorn, with no lines to speak, might've been seen seated across the crowded room during the restaurant sequence. Think how much more fun that would've added.

"Date Night" requires lots of belief suspension, but so does "Bringing Up Baby," a rather old, romantic comedy that starred a man and a woman---who, it turns out---were, as well, pretty good up there on the big screen.

"Date Night" official site.

Opens wide Friday, 4/9.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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