LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Strip clubs? Crooked cops? A topless, muscled-up Mark Wahlberg? Not exactly typical date fare for a sweet couple from the suburbs, but for Tina Fey and Steve Carell, it seemed just about right.
The two comic actors star in upcoming movie "Date Night," opening across the United States on Friday, in which they play a married couple from New Jersey out for a romantic evening in New York City when events spin wildly out of control.
Fey, the creator and star of television comedy "30 Rock," and Carell, who has won legions of fans in TV's "The Office," said the premise of "Date Night" sounded familiar because they are not too different from their characters.
"The idea that it was a married couple, who are grown people, appealed to me because I felt like...that's what we are in real life," said Fey, 39.
She and Carell, 47, are both married, both have children and both said it was easy to empathize with their onscreen couple's struggle to stay connected to each other and to the world at large as they raise a family.
In fact, specialists in human behavior have long advised couples to carve out a chunk of time for themselves, leave the kids at home and hit the town. They say just being around each other probably isn't enough to keep a romantic fire burning.
Dr. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, who has studied the effect of novelty on relationships, said what is needed sometimes is a night that shakes things up.
"Any kind of novelty, good or bad, drives up dopamine in the brain and can push you over the threshold toward feelings of romantic love," said Fisher. "So adventurous mishaps are certainly good triggers for feelings of romance."
Claire Foster (Fey) and her husband Phil (Carell), are a couple looking for a trigger. They have two kids. Claire is a working mom and Phil an understanding husband who tries to spice up their lives by taking Claire on a date to an exclusive Manhattan restaurant.
The night begins promisingly as they snag a table by posing as another couple. What they don't know is that the other couple has a little computer flash drive that carries pictures of a bigtime politician in a compromising position.
That little drive is wanted by mobsters, who are on the run from the cops, who themselves are of dubious distinction. And what started as a nice night out, descends into a perilous, and funny, excursion into a dangerous underworld of lies, deceit, car crashes and strip clubs. Wahlberg plays a security expert whom the Fosters recruit to help.
While Carell can laugh at the adventures of Phil and Claire, he and his wife rarely get that wild on their own "date nights."
"As most people with kids know, you pay for it if you go out late and whoop it up. The kids are up at 5:30 the next day -- and so are you," he said.
Fey echoed that sentiment and said she and her husband are typically low-key when out on the town together.
"Maybe once a month, my husband and I get out. And it is -- it's a massive effort to get a babysitter and if we get 10 blocks from our house, it's a miracle," she said.
And while the occasional "date night" is a good thing by all accounts, ways to keep a marriage on track can be as varied as the couple, Carell said. For he and his wife of 10 years, a little laughter goes a long way.
"We just have fun with one another and we never forget to make fun of ourselves and not take it all too seriously," he said, then smiled before adding, "and amazing lovemaking."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte