Directed by: Shawn Levy
Written by: Josh Klausner
Produced by: Shawn Levy, Tom McNultyd
Running time: 1h 28 min
Kristen Wiig as: Haley Sullivan
Other cast: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo
This action comedy tells the tale of mild-mannered married couple Phil and Claire, who fear their relationship may be falling into a stale rut. During their weekly date night, they impetuously steal a dinner reservation, which leads to a case of mistaken identity. Turns out the reservation was for a pair of thieves, and now a number of unsavory characters want Phil and Claire killed. If they can survive a wacky life-threatening night, they may just rediscover the passion missing from their marriage.
Haley: When was the last time you and Phil actually danced together?
Claire: I don’t know. Our wedding?
Haley: Okay. Well, I wanna dance every night. And I wanna take my top off. And I wanna get it on with three guys at the same time. Because I can.
Claire: Three guys at once? That’s a nightmare! That is literally a recurring stress dream that I have. I can only think of jobs for two. Oh, no. I got it.
Haley: Yeah. There’s that one.
Haley: I feel like we know eachother too well. I know everything about him! I know that croutons make him gag. And he knows that if I have five glasses of wine I’m gonna try to make out with a black guy.
Claire: You’re still doing that, huh?
Date Night was originally conceived as more of a suburban story centered around a parent-teacher conference night, but quickly evolved into, as screenwriter Josh Klausner calls it, “the perfect ‘North by Northwest’ setup of mistaken identity. Shawn and I really wanted what spurs on the evening to be something that we all might do”, Klausner continues. “Phil and Claire simply can’t get a seat at a restaurant, and, since nobody’s answering the call for a reservation, they just decide, ‘What’s the harm in taking it?’ And it leads them down the rabbit hole. From there, they end up on the worst night of their lives, which ends up being the best night for their relationship.”
Director Shawn Levy describes the film as being “in the spirit of action comedies I remember fondly, like ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ or ’48 Hrs.’ Date Night has a real hybrid tone, because it’s first and foremost a comedy. It also has a hefty dose of action, as well as a lot of heart, because it’s about the things that people deal with in relationships.” When Levy learned that Steve Carell and Tina Fey were hoping to find a project on which they could work together, he knew he had found his Date Night duo. “We got an early draft of the screenplay to Tina and Steve, who always struck me as the dream pairing for a movie about marriage”, Levy says. “They said, ‘Yeah, we relate to this, we want to do an action comedy that’s also honest about relationships.’ So they said they were in.”
Along their night-from-hell journey, Phil and Claire encounter a cavalcade of characters on both sides of the law. Levy’s casting choices for these roles was sometimes unexpected – and always spot-on. His intent was to provide the story with a Wizard of Oz-like experience. “You’re with your heroes, but along the way, they’re being affected and changed by the people they meet, and I just thought wouldn’t it be fun if at every turn of the road, you’re surprised all over again by who has suddenly appeared in this movie. And the cast members fit the roles perfectly.”
The surprise apparently wasn’t limited to the audience. “I read the script,” says Fey, “and I thought, ‘Oh, these are really good parts for somebody.’ I never thought we would get this lucky to have that caliber of people in all these different parts.” “Having what otherwise would have appeared to be small roles portrayed by big name actors only helps bring them alive,” Carell notes. “When you see them acted out, they’re even better than they were on the page.” And getting high-powered stars to join the Date Night team wasn’t just a matter of coincidence. “So many people were so keen to find a way to work with Steve and Tina – they just found a way to make it work,” says Levy.
Kristen Wiig and Mark Ruffalo play the Fosters soon-to-be-splitting couple friends, Haley and Brad Sullivan. “Their parting brings up the question about getting bored with your spouse and moving on, or just sticking it out,” says Wiig. “I think Haley plants the seeds in Claire’s mind.”