Date Night, Shawn Levy, 88 mins, (15)
The Joneses, Derrick Borte, 98 mins, (15)
Extract, Mike Judge, 92 mins, (15)

Status anxieties? Stale sex? This could be the perfect date movie

There are three American comedies this week which play with the status anxieties of white, suburban, middle-class, middle-aged couples.

Indeed, if you see all three films within two days, as I did, it's not easy to remember which is which: two of them feature Mila Kunis and Kristen Wiig, two of them spotlight the same high-end sportscar – a good day at the office for whichever product placement executive had that account.

Best of the bunch is Date Night, which pairs up Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a white, suburban, etc couple. Their marriage is a happy one, but it's so focused on their careers and their children that romance has dwindled to a half-asleep meal in a half-asleep steakhouse every Friday. In order to inject some oomph into their relationship, they go to an exclusive Manhattan restaurant, which leads, via a North by Northwest-inspired case of mistaken identity, to their being plonked into the middle of a blackmail scheme.

It's a reasonable fish-out-of-water set-up, so it's a pity that neither the danger they get into, nor the way they get out of it, has much to do with their characters. The screenwriter chucks together the same gangsters and corrupt cops that have been the staple of every action-comedy since the 1980s, and by the time we come to the obligatory tyre-screeching car chase, it's all getting a bit tiresome.

But the entertainment is still efficient enough for Date Night to be recommended for an actual date night. As rote as the thriller plotting may be, the perfectly matched Carell and Fey puncture it skilfully with some sharp jokes about marital familiarity, and about the fact that they're much too square for the adventure they find themselves in. We're 10 minutes into an urgent search for a missing flash drive before Fey admits that she doesn't know what a flash drive is. "In the office, we call it a computer stick thingy!"

In The Joneses, it's the neighbours' marriage that doesn't have the spark it used to – a deficiency which is thrown into relief by living next door to the loved-up Demi Moore and David Duchovny and their two picture-perfect teenagers. But if Moore & Co look as if they've stepped out of a catalogue, well, that's not far from the truth. They aren't a bona fide family at all, but actors paid by a stealth marketing firm to move into an affluent neighbourhood and show off a range of expensive products to the desperate housewives and husbands who live nearby.

It's a terrific concept – so terrific, in fact, that you'll wish the film had explored it further. The writer-director has made a sly commentary on today's ultra-consumerism that's always watchable and often very funny, but it's ultimately content to be a lackadaisical, loosely plotted indie comedy when it could have been either an excoriating satire or a full-on Jim Carrey-ish farce. Even when the film is at its most heightened, you're left with the suspicion that marketing tactics in the real world are much more Machiavellian.

Extract is even mellower. It stars Jason Bateman as a man who's bored both by his work as the owner of a food-flavouring plant, and by his sexless marriage to Kristen Wiig. An enticing young temp, Mila Kunis, looks as if she might provide the excitement his life is missing, especially if Bateman follows the highly questionable advice of his bar-tending buddy, Ben Affleck.

Written and directed by Mike Judge, the creator of King of the Hill and Beavis & Butt-Head, Extract meanders along amiably enough, prompting snorts of laughter here and there. But it's so digressive that it seems as if Judge filmed a pile of sub plots and forgot about the plot that was supposed to go with them.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees The Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement in Gentlemen Broncos, from the director of Napoleon Dynamite

Also Showing: 25/04/2010

Agora (128 mins, 12A)

Agora could well be this year's only Spanish epic about a 4th-century Alexandrian philosopher (Rachel Weisz) whose astronomy studies are threatened by Christian extremists. And maybe that's for the best. Commendable as its intentions may be, it simply has too many plot strands, themes, and European accents to fit into one film. Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, The Sea Inside) should have either edited out half the story or expanded it into an HBO mini-series.

Centurion (97 mins, 15)

Neil Marshall's blood-drenched action movie rips off/pays homage to the chase sequence in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but instead of bank robbers pursued by mercenaries, the heroes are a rag-tag band of Roman soldiers (Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, David Morrissey) being hunted through the forests of Caledonia by Picts. Scissor-happy editing has reduced Centurion to a succession of scenic helicopter shots, interlarded with montages of swords hacking through flesh.

It's a Wonderful Afterlife (100 mins, 12)

Gurinda Chadha's pointless melange of romance, ghosts, and curry-related serial-killing has an unfunny, shambolic and amateurish execution. You cringe for everyone involved.

Cherry Bomb (86 mins, 15)

Turgid Northern Irish teen drama co-starring Rupert "Ron Weasley" Grint as one of two obnoxious friends competing for the same obnoxious girl.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there