Dinner & a Movie: Don't Judge Tina Fey Edition



The Dinner : Almond Crusted Trout and an ESB at McCormick & Schmick's (1103 First Ave.).

The Movie : Date Night , at Meridian (1501


Dinner & a Movie: Don't Judge Tina Fey Edition

  • Dinner & a Movie: Don't Judge Tina Fey Edition

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    The Dinner: Almond Crusted Trout and an ESB at McCormick & Schmick's (1103 First Ave.).

    The Movie: Date Night, at Meridian (1501 Seventh Ave).

    The Screenplate: Given the success of 30 Rock for Tina Fey, and the acclaim for The Office for Steve Carell, it's a little hard to understand why they're venturing out of their TV comfort zone to the big screen. Few television stars can make that leap. And while Fey has written for the movies (e.g., Mean Girls) and Carell has appeared in more than a few (e.g., Get Smart), there's a certain fish-out-of-water quality to Date Night that reinforces the movie's plot (nice married suburbanites get involved in Manhattan crime caper). Their characters begin the movie in a marital rut, which they half realize while mocking other couples at their usual New Jersey "date night" steakhouse, imagining the conversations at tables nearby. What they don't realize is how they look to others--that they, too, are caught in a safe, stereotypical relationship. Until, of course, the bullets start flying...

    Conceived by the guy (Shawn Levy) behind those family-pleasing Night at the Museum movies, Date Night grabs at every cliché the Fosters ridicule back home in their favorite Jersey restaurant. It's easy for them to spot the first-daters, the tired married couples, the awkward blind dates and ad lib dialogue for them. (And Fey and Carell are well-trained in that kind of knowing improv.) But when the waiter comes round, he's got their number. What's supposed to be the Fosters' "special night" away from the kids has become a routinized caricature of romance. The usual? he asks. Salmon with potato skins? Yup, just like every other date night--safe and reliable, if not particularly novel or romantic.

    That's a slight problem, too, at the First Ave. McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, where one tends to order the same old menu items, whether for lunch, happy hour, or dinner. Just like the Fosters' favorite eatery, they know us too well. The challenge then, for diners not suddenly involved in mistaken identities and a blackmail plot over in Manhattan, is to shake things up a bit. So, for a recent pre-show dinner, do we order the True Cod Fish and Chips? No! Even if it's been good before, we've been there too many times before. Likewise we reluctantly reject the Yellowfin Tuna, Lobster Ravioli, and House Smoked Salmon and Angel Hair, though we stare sadly as those plates are dispatched to other tables.

    So, like the Fosters, who wrongfully claim some other couple's dinner reservation in Manhattan (thus being mistaken for blackmailers), we are determined to shake things up. Thus it will be the Almond Crusted Trout ($19.95), served with lemon butter sauce. The fish comes from Idaho, which is a nice way of saying a fish farm, something we usually try to avoid. But, when washed down with an ESB, the trout is savory, not swimming in sauce, the texture still firm and fresh. (It's a short drive from Idaho in a refrigerated truck, after all.) It's so tasty, in fact, that I could order it again. But that's the problem! The same problem faced by the Fosters--falling into a delicious rut!

    Instead of ordering the trout, Fey and Carell are pursued (and shot at) by dirty cops, race an Audi R8 through the streets of Lower Manhattan, and encounter Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, James Franco, and Mila Kunis--none of whom you'd ever expect to meet at McCormick & Schmick's. A cab gets stuck to the front of their Audi; the cab goes into the East River; and the blackmail plot leads to a strip club where they do a naughty dance to help catch the villain.

    To put it bluntly, the trout was more exciting. Fey and Carell are trapped by the fundamental decency of their suburban characters: They're happily married, have nice kids and not-awful jobs. Unlike Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, they're not closeted assassins; there are no superpowers to reveal. (Go rent True Lies for a better example of the danger-filled remarriage comedy.) Their main objective in the film is to simply get back home to Jersey, usually a place to avoid (again, like Idaho farm-raised trout). The movie will be a success, though, because it takes such an affirmative view of marriage and family. The Fosters hardly ever exchange a cross word between them, which is more than we can say of most married couples we know.

    And while we can expect a lazy sequel in a few years (the Fosters venture to Europe and are mistaken for spies!), Fey and Carell maintain their considerable reservoir of public goodwill (another reason the movie will be a success). And they can go back to their safe and reliable day jobs on television, just like the Fosters can go back to their suburban rut. Just like I can go back to McCormick & Schmick's, where I will do everything in my power not to order the trout, no matter how good it was.

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