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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 1:13 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Date Night’

The film is entertaining, but its message is not the answer for restoring passion in a marriage

2 Stars — Shallow

It’s a healthy practice for married couples to keep their romantic relationship vibrant by continuing to go out together on “date nights.” But for many, these evenings become as obligatory as the other chores their shared lives require. This reality is the theme of Shawn Levy’s Date Night.

Written by Josh Klausner (Shrek the Third), the couple at the center of the tale are Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey).

With two young children at home, the Fosters have replaced their romantic moments with the tiring responsibilities of parenting. When attending a book club together, they are informed individually that their good friends are divorcing. The reason is simple: They have morphed into being only “good roommates.” This definition of their friends’ marriage causes Phil and Claire to attempt a night in the city to rekindle their erotic passions.

In an impulsive moment of frustration, they take the reservation of another couple at a swank Manhattan restaurant only to discover too late that they have stepped into the lives of two criminals. Nicknamed Taste (James Franco) and Whippit (Mila Kunnis), these two are in danger because of their criminal behavior, which has been transferred to Phil and Claire. This misidentification starts an adventure that predictably reveals both the resourcefulness and the love that Phil and Claire have for each other.

That marriages can become routine is something every couple must face. Trying to find a solution often results in attempts to rekindle the romance. But if even these preventive efforts become routine, then something must change. The message of this film is that a night of danger might be just what is needed. Though this solution makes an entertaining film, it is not the answer for restoring passion in marriage.

Romantic love is kept vibrant not by “date nights” that only mimic dating, but by acceptance, respect, faithfulness and shared passion. This vibrancy is not built on a night of danger, but on being people who fuel romance in a multitude of ways every day.

That truth makes this film a shallow exploration of a very real need of every couple. Hopefully, someone will make a different film that explores the true flame of romance in families where young children take such a large proportion of their parents’ time and energy. That would be a film we would love to see.

Discussion:

» If you’re married, how do you keep your romantic passion? What are the ingredients you have found to be most powerful in your relationship?

» Putting the District Attorney Crenshaw (William Fichtner) in partnership with the lead criminal is a cliché. Do you think it strengthens or weakens the story?

» The attraction that Claire has for Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg) reveals a common temptation that can destroy a marriage. How do you successfully deal with such a temptation even though you love and are committed to your spouse?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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