Program Notes: Date Night (2010)

New Jersey residents Claire and Phil Foster (Tina Fey, Steve Carell) decide to get away from the kids and treat themselves to a night in Manhattan.

They go to a trendy new restaurant, naively hoping to get seated without a reservation. And in a rare moment of gutsiness, they masquerade as Mr. and Mrs. Tripplehorn, who have failed to claim their table.

Bad move. Apparently the Tripplehorns are involved in some sort of criminal enterprise, and now Claire and Phil — wrapped up in a deadly case of mistaken identity — are on the run from a couple of murderous crooked cops (Jimmi Simpson, Common) in the pocket of a mob boss (Ray Liotta).

Terrified, unable to trust the authorities, their clothing dirty and ragged and their IDs and cash gone, our suburban mom and pop must rely on their wits to get through a long night.

Film Screening:
Date Night (2010)
Monday, Mar. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
Central Library

Josh Klausner’s screenplay for Date Night has a great setup that is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s bad-night-in-the-big-city black comedy After Hours.

Things start out well with a depiction of the Fosters’ married life, deftly limning a relationship that has drifted into midlife staleness. And periodically throughout our protagonists’ long night the film delivers effective comic encounters.

One involves a security expert (Mark Wahlberg) to whom the two turn for assistance. He’s a former client of Claire’s (she’s a real estate agent), and his shirtless machismo turns Claire into a purring flirt and Phil into a jealous knot of impotency. This is Fey and Carell at their comic best.

There’s also an amusing run-in with the “Tripplehorns” (James Franco, Mila Kunis), a couple of perennially stoned lowlifes who’ve stolen a flash drive containing incriminating evidence against the district attorney.

Date Night deserves a better director than Shawn Levy (of the Night at the Museum franchise and the Steve Martin Cheaper by the Dozen and Pink Panther do-overs). His pacing is uneven (whenever Carell and Fey try to discuss their relationship, the movie slows to a painful crawl), and he can’t stage action (a long car chase wears out its welcome).

But Fey and Carell, at least, know comedy.

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Other films in the series “While the City Sleeps: After Dark”

Mondays at 6:30 p.m.:


Admission to these films is free.

The series complements While the City Sleeps, the 2013 Adult Winter Reading Program.

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.

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