"Date Night" puts the sparks back in the romantic comedy genre.
The light comedy, with a dash of adventure and mayhem, is an entertaining mainstream movie about keeping the life in married life. There are some thoughtful moments, too, about trust, fidelity and keeping the home fires burning.
It helps if you're a fan of Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Here, they're brilliantly teamed as Claire and Phil Foster, a suburban New Jersey couple whose date night at a trendy New York City restaurant goes dangerously and, at times, hilariously, awry when, to get a reserved table, they pose as the Tripplehorns, who turn out to be a small-time crime couple.
Helping extricate them from the hot seats is a very buff Mark Wahlberg as a computer savvy spy-for-hire.
Fey and Carell, while no Myrna Loy and William Powell as crime sleuths Nick and Nora Charles in "The Thin Man" movie series, have believable couple chemistry.
Fey ("Baby Mama," TV's "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live") has a deadpan countenance masking a passionate heart and rapier wit.
Carell ("The 40 Year Old Virgin," TV's "The Office") has Ben Stiller eyeballs intensity, Jim Carrey self-deprecating grimace and a voice of world-class, self-aggrandizing whinng that's his alone.
The solid supporting cast includes Jimmi Simpson, Common, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ray Liotta and Mark Ruffalo.
With a screenplay by Josh Klausner ("Shrek the Third"), director Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum" series, "The Pink Panther," "Cheaper by the Dozen") basically sets up the camera and lets Fey and Carell go.
The duo's Second City troupe acting chops lift the material. The "What's the story?" karaoke conversation scenes are right out of sketch-comedy acting exercises.
A chase scene involving an Audi sports car and a New York cab is laugh-out loud funny and frightening.
Most of the time, "Date Night," if not particularly memorable, scores.
Speaking of "Date Night," Allentown's Amanda Seyfried stars with Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson in "Chloe" about a different kind of date night.
"Chloe," which is rated R, is an erotic thriller, the likes of which we haven't seen since "Fatal Attraction" (1987) and "Basic Instinct" (1992). "Chloe" is is based on the film, "Nathalie," a 2003 French film.
Seyfried's role is a twist on that of Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" and Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct."
The Michael Douglas character of those films is an amalgam of the roles played by Neeson and Moore.
The plot for the tautly-acted "Chloe" is about a physician-wife (Moore) who, suspecting her professor husband (Neeson) is philandering, sets a snare for him, namely, Chloe (Seyfried).
Director Atom Egoyan ("The Sweet Hereafter") keeps the dialogue and action at a feverish pitch in the lushly-filmed "Chloe," which has a gorgeous soundtrack of strings and piano by Mychael Danna.
You'll see a lot of Seyfried in "Chloe" quite a departure from her roles in "Dear John" and "Mamma Mia!"
"Date Night": MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for sexual and crude content throughout, language, some violence and a drug reference; Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance; Run Time: 88 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Credit Readers Anonymous: The end credits for "Date Night" includes Tina Fey and Steve Carell blooper out-takes. Stay to the very, very end for several takes with Fey and Carell and a restaurant maitre d.'
Box Office, April 9: The 2-D, as in Tina Fey and Steve Carell of "Date Night," opened at No. 1, with $27.1 million, squeezing past the 3-D "Clash of the Titans," dropping to No. 2, $26.8 million, $110.4 million, two weeks; and, No. 3, the 3-D "How to Train Your Dragon," $25.3 million, $133.8 million, three weeks.
4. "Tyler Perry's Why Did I get Married Too?," $11 million, $48.5 million, two weeks; 5. "The Last Song," $10 million, $42.4 million, two weeks; 6. "Alice in Wonderland," $5.6 million, $319.3 million, six weeks; 7. "Hot Tub Time Machine," $5.4 million, $36.9 million, three weeks; 8. "The Bounty Hunter," $4.3 million, $56 million, four weeks; 9. "Dairy of a Wimpy Kid," $4.1 million, $53.7 million, four weeks; 10. "Letters to God," $1.2 million, opening.
Unreel, April 16: "Death at a Funeral" stars Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence as brothers whose patriarch's funeral digs up family secrets. In "Kick-Ass," a teen-ager (Aaron Johnson) fancies himself a crime-fighting superhero. Director Matthew Vaughn's film also stars Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz.
Hear Paul Willistein's movie reviews on Lehigh Valley Arts Salon, 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio. Read previous movie reviews at www.tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein @tnonline.com and on Facebook.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes