Date Night, by Albert W. Vogt III

I have never married, though I have been in a few long-lasting relationships.  There is a sort of fortune cookie saying from a movie called Hope Floats (1998) about living life that I believe can be applied to either dating situations or marriages: beginnings are scary, endings are sad, but it is what is in the middle that counts.  It takes courage to approach a person of the opposite sex and ask them out, and if things go well, it is sad when they end.  In between are a whole host of experiences, covering a wide range of emotions.  To get to them, it takes a certain understanding that can be difficult to maintain at all times.  These themes are examined in the film Date Night (2010).

Our couple with which these themes are explored in Date Night are the Fosters, Claire (Tina Fey) and Phil (Steve Carell).  We meet them in bed, but it is not what you might think.  Instead, they are enjoying some last few precious moments of sleep before their young children invade their sanctum before the sun rises.  With resigned moans, they get their day started.  Claire heads to her job as a realtor, and Phil as a tax lawyer.  When they return to their abode from their labors, their level of exhaustion is such that when Katy (Leighton Meester), their next-door neighbor and regular babysitter, arrives on the usual day and time, they have forgotten that it is their date night.  The worries over their growing complacency in their relationship continue after they return from dinner, and the opportunity to have sex goes by the board.  It is added to when they visit with another married couple with which they are friends, Brad (Mark Ruffalo) and Haley Sullivan (Kristen Wiig).  They all belong to a book club, and during a lull in the proceedings, Brad reveals to Phil that the Sullivans are getting a divorce.  In discussing it further, Brad cites many of the same fears that had been developing for the Fosters.  Hoping to avoid a similar fate, Phil determines to do something special for the next date night.  Rather than going back to their familiar local steak house, they decide to dress up and go to a swanky restaurant about which Claire had been hearing.  Given that it is Friday night in New York City, unsurprisingly they find a fully booked establishment with not a table to be had.  Undeterred, they wait at the bar hoping to get a place.  With Claire, though touched by the gesture, suggesting they give up, Phil hears the hostess walking through calling for the Triplehorns, party of two, and decides to take their spot.  Their evening seems to be going swimmingly until they are approached by two men who ask the Fosters to step outside.  In the alley, the two men point guns at the Fosters and demand that the bewildered couple hand over a thumb drive.  Once Phil realizes that they are not there to give them a hard time for stealing a reservation, he tells them that what they seek is in Central Park.  Phil is improvising, though Claire is not completely in on the charade.  Nonetheless, Phil takes them to a boat house, inside which he is able to get the drop on the men and escape with Claire.  The Fosters naturally go to the police.  Yet, while being interviewed by Detective Arroyo (Taraji P. Henson), they look out into the precinct and notice that the two men who had accosted them at the restaurant are themselves New York City cops, Detectives Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson) and Collins (Common).  Not knowing who to trust, the Fosters sneak out when Detective Arroyo’s attention is focused elsewhere.  Based on what they describe, she believes that local crime boss Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta) is behind these troubles.  She is partially correct, though she is unaware that Detectives Armstrong and Collins are in Miletto’s employ.  She also does not know about the thumb drive or its contents.  Then again, neither do the Fosters.  Claire, though, has an idea.  A former client of hers, Holbrooke Grant (Mark Wahlberg), she remembers as having the kind of skills needed to help somebody in the kind of danger they are experiencing.  What comes as a shock to Phil is how handsome he is, and shirtless.  Despite Phil’s uncomfortableness, they are able to locate the Triplehorns with Holbrooke’s assistance and obtain the elusive thumb drive.  This is where Detectives Armstrong and Collins catch up with the Fosters, and they are forced to flee once more in the car that they “borrowed” from Holbrooke.  Not being used to high-speed chases, they quickly smash into a cab and get attached to it.  With a bit of maneuvering, Phil finds himself crashing the taxi into the East River, and the thumb drive goes down with it.  Luckily, because they had viewed its contents, containing compromising pictures of District Attorney Frank Crenshaw (William Fichtner).  They were being kept by Miletto as blackmail, which is why he had his goons after it.  The Fosters decide to try and get the information out of Crenshaw themselves.  Phil poses as a pimp, and Claire as his prostitute, and they make it into Crenshaw’s personal den of sin.  What ruins their cover is the entrance of Detectives Armstrong and Collins.  The Fosters are taken to the rooftop, where Miletto awaits, but an argument between Crenshaw and the crime boss, and Claire counting to three, gives them enough time for the police to arrive.  We close with a thankful Claire and Foster at a local diner, glad to have each other.

At the beginning of this review of Date Night, I talked about how relationships sometimes run the risk of becoming stagnate.  I am not here to tell you that Christian couples have the secret to avoiding this classic pitfall.  Prayer and practicing the Sacraments are important to a healthy pairing, but they, too, are rituals.  I, for one, like ritual.  I crave structure, and the Church provides it as a tried-and-true method for getting to Heaven.  As for the hereafter, it is just that, and I ask myself what could be more important?  At the same time, I cannot say that I would sign off on having the kind of night as do the Fosters as a method for regaining a spark.  Life can be thrilling without risking life and limb.  Indeed, our God is a God who laughs.  What can be said about what the Fosters experience is that they see firsthand what it is like to not have such a staid routine.  This is represented in the Triplehorns, who are actually Tom “Taste” (James Franco) and “Whippit” Felton (Mila Kunis).  They do not have any children, are clearly on drugs, and behave like crazy people.  While there are many stages of downward spiraling between themselves and the Feltons, it shows the Fosters that they could be in a worse situation.  Hence, by the end of the movie, they are counting their blessings.  It is good to be thankful for what you have, and pray for those who do not.

Overall, Date Night is a cute movie.  There are a few inappropriate moments, but nothing too out of the ordinary for a film that is rated PG-13.  I have also never been the biggest fan of Steve Carell, but his performance is not too over-the-top like some of his other films.  It is also available on Netflix, so bonus.  In fact, I would call the movie a nice little addition to your own date night.

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