Date Night (2010)

Comedy Rated PG-13

Date Night, in which Steve Carell and Tina Fey play harried parents whose romantic evening goes horribly awry, is as carefully crafted to appeal to its target market as any Twilight film.

In other words, if you’re closer in age to the baby sitter in the movie, I wouldn’t bother. But if you’re married with children and barely have the energy to go on the few dates you manage to squeeze into your jam-packed schedules, this will be a comic delight.

Full disclosure: I’m in the target market. This made it easier to sit through the undeniable weaknesses — unnecessary car chases, a corrupt cop subplot, horrendous digital cinematography — and enjoy the familiar, real-life foibles chronicled by this minor comedy. Aside from the part where Steve Carell climbs onto the hood of a sports car during a high-speed gun fight, Date Night is funny because it’s true.

Carell and Fey play married fortysomethings Phil and Claire Foster. Tired of their usual suburban haunts and unsettled by their friends’ impending divorce, the Fosters head to Manhattan for a high-priced dinner. Unable to get a table, they steal another couple’s reservations, only to be mistaken as that couple by the bad cops who have been hunting them.

Carell and Fey are sharp together, as you’d expect. The sweetest thing about the movie is the way the Fosters still manage to have fun with each other even though their lives have succumbed to routine. (Their dinner table banter, much of it improvised by the actors, is a highlight.)

Amusing cameos also pepper the proceedings — both Mark Wahlberg and James Franco get chances to exercise their considerable comedic chops — but this is Carell and Fey’s show. Married working parents themselves, they lend an underlying authenticity to the action-comedy shenanigans that keeps Date Night from becoming mindlessly silly.