Both Tina Fey, the star and writer of the TV comedy series 30 Rock, and Steve Carroll, the star of the US version of The Office, have a talent for deadpan humour. They make a fine team and an appealing couple in Date Night, a genuinely funny date movie for grown-ups that harks back to '70s comedy thrillers like Foul Play and Silver Streak.
The Fosters, a hard-working middle aged couple from suburban New Jersey, try to reignite their marriage with a special date night at a fashionable Manhattan restaurant.
Without a reservation they have no chance of getting a table but in a moment of madness they pretend to be the Tripplehorns who have not turned up for theirs. The Fosters are loving their dinner when two heavies appear demanding a word out in the alley (note to Hollywood screenwriters: there are no alleys in Manhattan). Suddenly the Fosters are caught in a Hitchcock-style mistaken-identity plot, for the Tripplehorns are in trouble with both the mob and the cops.
Two things are particularly refreshing about Date Night. One is its brevity: the filmmakers somehow pack in two hours worth of action and jokes into 88 minutes.
The other is the way it parts company with so many recent comedies, romantic and otherwise, by presenting a couple who squabble but who clearly like each other; they may be bored or dissatisfied but they still make each other laugh.
The supporting characters are also unusually likeable - a reflection of the unfashionably un-misanthropic sensibility of director Shawn (Night at the Museum) Levy. These include Mark Wahlberg's hunky security consultant (with a sexually frightening Israeli girlfriend), James Franco and Russian-Jewish starlet Mila Kunis as tattooed outlaws, and villains played by William Fichtner and Ray Liotta.