Whenever Hollywood ventures into suburbia, you may have a reasonable expectation that moviemakers will have considerably less sympathy for what they find than they typically do for, say, the average Shiite insurgent or Communist dictator. So Date Night, which is far from a great comedy, but does have enough laughs to make it worth watching on home video or pay TV, does take a surprising stance: That ordinary suburban upper-middle-class family types are nice, normal people who just need a little more sleep and maybe some time to themselves. (At least in the Northeast. Maybe someday soon Hollywood will discover that southerners are not necessarily scary rednecks, or that veterans aren’t all freaked-out malcontents.)
Date Night stars Steve Carell, as Phil the tax lawyer, and Tina Fey, as Claire the real estate agent. They play harried marrieds living in New Jersey whose weekly date night to a local restaurant doesn’t quite satisfy. They love their kids and their home but sex has become scarce (there’s a funny moment when Phil makes meek inquiries about the possibility of putting the moves on his wife — but she’s dressed in a frumpy T-shirt and anyway must first pause to take out a retainer that’s covered in slobber). Their days seem to be eaten away by family chores and even social occasions like a book group aren’t much fun. Their kids dance on their heads at five a.m. By the time they get home from work in the evening, the idea of a romantic night out seems like yet another dull duty.
This is ground that has been staked out by a thousand sitcoms, but a sitcom done reasonably well is a fairly reliable form of entertainment and Carell and Fey make for a convincing couple. They even look alike, as married couples tend to do.