Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell, Tina Fey) are the stereotypical two-income, two undisciplined kids, too-tired-for-sex suburbanite couple. The tax accountant and his real estate agent wife do, however, have a regular date night, which puts them far ahead of many other time-strapped and weary marriage partners. Still they worry their relationship is slipping into a less-than-zesty routine—especially after they discover their friends (Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig) are divorcing.
So rather than spend another comfortable evening at the neighborhood steak house, they decide to shake things up with a dinner date in Manhattan. The restaurant they are headed for is packed by the time they arrive and they don’t have a hope of getting in until Phil lies about their last name in order to take another patron’s reservation.
Like most seemingly harmless fibs, this one requires another one to cover it up. And before they’ve even had time to order dessert, the Fosters are escorted by a pair of solemn looking men (Jimmi Simpson, Common) out the back door and into an alley where they expect to get a tongue lashing for taking another customer’s table. Instead the men produce guns and demand that the "Tripplehorns" return a piece of stolen property. From that moment on Phil and Claire are caught up in a cascade of lies and crimes that has the New York City Police department and a gaggle of thugs hot on their trail.
Happily married couples are a rarity in the movies. (Filmmakers seem to prefer to have husbands and wives shooting at one another—Mr. & Mrs. Smith or at least arguing strenuously—Did You Hear About the Morgans?) But short of one or two tense moments when Phil voices his disappointment over their lack of intimacy and Claire complains about Phil’s inability to shut drawers, this couple rarely argues. They also don’t get cozy or even exchange a passionate kiss. The director seems intent on sparing viewers from having to watch a married couple smooch even though strippers, prostitutes, invitations for group sex, a buff, shirtless security officer (Mark Wahlberg) and passionate saliva swapping between a couple of tattooed criminals (James Franco, Mila Kunis) are fine. Later while trying to conceal their real identities to protect their kids, Phil and Claire do resort to talking tough and nasty on the street and performing in a strip joint.
Many of the cast members on this project have worked at SNL and Second City, honing their comedic skills and timing. Yet their talent fails to translate this script into the kind of engaging marital romp audiences should expect from these performers. And though there are lines and moments in the film that seem perched on the edge of hilarity, the chemistry between these characters never really generates into something magical. Combine that letdown with plenty of crass, trash talk and sexual innuendo and this film becomes a bit of a disappointing choice for a Date Night—whether you’re married or not.