I'm not really in the target audience for rom-coms, due to having both of my balls. But since I see movies for a living, I've had to suck up more than my share of them in recent months. Couple that with the fact that neither Steve Carell or Tina Fey have been able to translate their TV mojo to the big screen and I wasn't walking into Date Night with a lot of joy in my heart. How happy am I to say that I was pleasantly surprised?
Your necessary plot rundown follows: our two leads play a married New Jersey couple who are terribly, horribly normal. But when they go into the Big Apple for a romantic evening out, things start to spin wildly out of control. When they get to the restaurant, they take the reservation of a pair of blackmailers. Cue one case of mistaken identity that sends our pair careening through a series of crazy situations and bizarre encounters. But this threadbare plot works for a few reasons that other rom-coms could learn from.
First and foremost, Carell and Fey don't overplay it. They're in many ways the straight men of the movie (despite both pulling out some astoundingly hilarious laughs), and they never leave character for a joke. They're amazingly believable as a normal Joe and Jane who are in way over their heads, and that normalcy makes the ludicrous happenings around them even more ludicrous. Both actors are incredibly gifted at grabbing the empathy of an audience, and that talent is brought to the fore here.
The second ingredient is the supporting cast. There's not a bum note here - the resurgently weird James Franco shines as one of the blackmailers, and Mark Wahlberg as a security consultant who just can't keep his shirt on highlight the ensemble, but everybody carries their share of the movie. From meager beginnings, Date Night grows into a truly enjoyable experience, even for a virile dude like myself.