A couple of real characters make Date Night worthwhile

Every so often, the elements combine to make a formulaic studio comedy really work. The likeable action-comedy Date Night, directed by Shawn Levy, has a lot of the right stuff: the ingenious pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a married couple from New Jersey; a fairly funny screenplay by Josh Klausner; and a delightful supporting cast featuring Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg. The story centers on Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey), a tax lawyer and his realtor wife, who are bored with their workaday lives. Even their occasional “date night” has become routine, so they try to recapture some excitement with dinner at an overpriced Manhattan bistro. They steal another couple’s reservation, which plunges them into a perilous misadventure involving rogue cops, blackmail and a corrupt D.A. The fluid rapport between the leads, sexy-smart Fey and diffident semi-nerd Carell, is the movie’s most appealing element. They’re jokey, affectionate and irritable, just like a real couple. Comedically, there are as many misses as hits, and the action plot, climaxed by a high-decibel car chase, at times threatens to overwhelm the humor. But the movie offers a high quotient of laughs: Claire, fleeing two gunmen with Phil, screeching, “I don’t want the kids to live with your mother! She’s awful!”; Phil desperately begging a hunky, habitually bare-chested security expert (Wahlberg) to, for the love of God, put on a shirt. Be sure to stay for the closing-credits outtakes. ***

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