‘Date Night’

CAST: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, James Franco and Mark Wahlberg. Directed by Shawn Levy.

BACK STORY: Fey and Carell are in the middle of a heated disagreement portraying a long-married couple hitting a relationship rocky patch. It is Day 29 of 52 on the set of the big-budget action-comedy.

“I love you, Phil,” says Fey as real estate agent Clara Foster to Carell’s nerdy tax attorney, with no small amount of exasperation, “but your plans never work!”

Except this was no simple argument. In the scene, filmed against green screen at a soundstage in West Los Angeles’ Fox studio lot, Carell clings to the hood of a souped-up Audi R8 coupe for dear life. The car’s bumper, meanwhile, is locked onto the front grill of a New York City cab that’s driving at high speed down Manhattan’s South Street in reverse. And another vehicle filled with gun-toting thugs (played by Common and Jimmi Simpson) is giving chase to both cars just as a police black-and-white joins the pursuit.

“Move your ass,” Carell screams as the camera rolls.

“I liked the idea that it was regular people thrust into this action thing,” Fey says later of the script. “It’s really fun!”

Director Levy, the force behind an impressive string of hit movies in the last decade that includes “Night at the Museum” and “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “wanted to do ‘Risky Business’ meets ‘After Hours’ for married couples. On one date night, they do one thing differently and the whole evening comes off the rails. From sundown to sun-up, it’s these two people in the middle of all this crazy . . . they’re unequipped for.”

FILM CLIP: Levy came up with “Date Night’s” premise after one not-so-memorable night out with the missus. “I’m married with three kids,” he says. “Every week I go on a date night. It becomes as rote as the marriage you’re trying to spice up.”

-- Chris Lee

NEXT: “Salt”