Tina Fey and Steve Carell’s latest movie proves to be more than just a slapstick comedy with its refreshingly realistic portrayal of married life. While the movie has no shortage of funny and outrageous moments, it remains relatable and engaging through its depiction of real everyday problems married couples go through.
Fey and Carell play Claire and Phil, a suburban New Jersey married couple with kids who have fallen into a rut, to say the least. Every single day of their lives is boring and exactly the same; they go to work, come home, deal with their two exhausting children, eat and go to bed.
Every Saturday they reluctantly go on date nights that have also become mundane and predictable, choosing the same restaurant over and over again, even the same appetizers everytime. Spurred by the breakup of their two friends in a similar monotonous marriage, the protagonists begin to question their own marriage and wonder if they have become excellent roommates instead of man and wife in love.
In a moment of impulsive determination to shake them out of their rut, they decide to take date night more seriously and actually put some effort into it. Claire dresses up, and Phil decides to take her to a fancy, expensive restaurant in the city for once. Faced with a snobby maitre d’ who refuses to seat them, Phil takes drastic action and steals the reservation of a no-show couple. All goes well until two scary looking men show up demanding to talk to them outside.
It turns out the no-shows weren’t exactly law-abiding citizens, and Claire and Phil were mistaken for them. Suddenly they find themselves entangled in a blackmail and extortion scheme that has them running for their lives all over the city.
The resulting madcap adventure has a lot of laughs as the boring suburbanites from New Jersey suddenly have to face off against corrupt cops, a crime boss and other questionable characters. They are aided by one of Claire’s former real estate clients Holbrooke, played by Mark Wahlberg. He is hilarious in his role as a buff security expert who constantly makes Phil question his own manliness by remaining shirtless in every single scene.
In the process of fighting off and eventually trapping the bad guys, Claire and Phil are sufficiently shaken out of their rut enough to actually talk to each other about their marriage and the things that are bothering them. In this way they are able to open up to each other and delve into what their underlying issues are, earning a new respect and fascination for each other, as well as reigniting lost passion.
James Franco and Mila Kunis have small roles as Taste and Whippet, the two crooked no-shows who unknowingly drag Phil and Claire into this mess. They are very funny in their roles, and also serve the purpose of reminding Phil and Claire about passion and true love. Will.I.Am makes a hilarious cameo, and Ray Liotta and William Fichtner also have small roles as a crime boss and a corrupt politician that are both delivered well.
Nevertheless, this movie is definitely dependant on the leads Fey and Carell, and they do a commendable job of carrying this weight. Their chemistry is convincing, as well as their perfectly-matched timing. They are completely believable as an average couple in bizarre circumstances, and are certainly in their comedic element.
They are what make this movie work, along with the fact that it is completely relatable. Claire’s aggravation at her inability to have alone time without constantly having to cater to the needs of her family is something all moms will relate to.
Phil’s frustration and insecurity with hunky men such as Holbrooke will resonate with guys everywhere who feel inferior to the movie stars their girls pine over. All couples have felt this way at some point or another, and its themes are sure to spark introspection in its viewers.
While the plot of the film isn’t terribly well-constructed, with the final showdown feeling a tad premature and rushed, this film is obviously meant to be a comedy rather than an actual full-fledged action thriller.
Expect to laugh a lot, but don’t expect to be too intellectually stimulated by intricate and complex storytelling. There is some profanity as well as sexual situations and violence, so younger children should probably stay away.