‘We are not these people! We are a boring couple from New Jersey!” complains Claire Foster (Tina Fey) to her husband, Phil (Steve Carell), in Date Night. Phil and Claire are middle-class, suburban parents whose plans for a night on the town are thwarted when they’re pulled into a web of crime and conspiracy. They wanted a night off from mundane matrimony; they learn that they’re better off bored. Fey has become associated with comedy that’s fast-paced, cerebral, and laden with cultural references; even more than Carell, she’s hurt by the transition from a sitcom that regularly operates on multiple levels (30 Rock) to a film squarely aimed just north of the lowest common denominator. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museums) glosses over the seeds of social satire inherent in the premise, and instead tries to make his movie all things to all quadrants—straight-faced violent action flick, slapstick comedy, relationship comedy, sanctimonious ode to family values. A jumble of genres, tones, and styles, Date Night ultimately strains to be a serious movie about marriage, with one joke: that, even when surrounded by excitement, Claire and Phil revert to being dull. But in practice, their dullness is just dull. In a great romantic comedy, sex is the subtext of all conversation. In Date Night, the conversation is bland, the sex is left mainly to spies and criminals, and the subtext? That’s apparently too much to ask of a boring couple from New Jersey.
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