Maybe it's time to scrap the stereotype that Hollywood opposes traditional family values.
The Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy "Date Night" is only the latest in a string of popular movies espousing long-term marriage: "Up," "Julie and Julia," Tyler Perry's films, "Marley and Me," "Couples Retreat" - why, some even make marriage look like fun; imagine that!
In the newest of these, the suburban marriage of Phil and Claire Foster has stalemated in the routine of work and kids - with a sizable dose of exhaustion thrown in.
In this image, from left, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Mark Wahlberg are seen in “Date Night.”
The solution is a date in Manhattan, which goes horribly haywire when the Fosters steal a dinner reservation, get mistaken for another couple and then are pursued by two hit men in cahoots with the police.
What follows is the wildest night of their lives - involving, among other things, breaking and entering, government corruption, a seedy city brothel, a security whiz played by Mark Wahlberg and a lunatic car-chase with a taxi and an Audi stuck together face-to-face.
All of which is enough to remind the Fosters that a) each really does find the other pretty special, and b) normal married life is just fine with them, thank you.
Fey and Carell - both happily married in real life, though not to each other - are perfectly cast as the imperiled parents.
Fey's screen persona somehow blends smart 'n' sexy with mature and level-headed - just the right mixture for this stressed-out-but-still-attractive mom who proves surprisingly hip and resourceful during the Fosters' night of mayhem.
Carell, meanwhile, continues to sharpen the remarkable contrast between his work as the witless, insufferable boss on "The Office" and his engaging warmth in such films as "Dan in Real Life" and "Get Smart."
Here, when he makes the inevitable heartfelt declaration of renewed love for his wife, you can scarcely believe this is the same actor who can't open his mouth on TV without making you guffaw or cringe - sometimes both.
The film's impressive supporting cast includes not only Wahlberg but also Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite actors, but virtually wasted here), plus Leighton Meester, Taraji P. Henson and an unbilled Ray Liotta.
Especially effective are James Franco and Mila Kunis as the real wanted couple; their scene of bickering was, for me, the funniest in the film, while also serving as an eye-opener on what the Fosters' marriage is starting to look like.
Often exciting and consistently hilarious, "Date Night" also has a terrific pro-love message that comes across as sincere and old-fashioned without seeming corny or artificial.
It's the kind of picture that'll make Mom and Dad glad they got out of the house for the night, but perfectly happy to head home again.