Dan in Real Life
Director: Peter Hedges (Pieces of April)
Writers: Pierce Gardner and Peter Hedges
Producers: Jonathan Shestack, Natalie Wright, Brad Epstein
Starring: Steve Carrell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Amy Ryan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 98 min
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reviewed by Andrew James
     Steve Carrell's career got his start in the over-acting style of comedy (Bruce Almighty, Anchorman). Now graduating to more sophisticated, "mature" humor (Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life, or TV series "The Office"). I can see glimpses of a possibly formiddable actor to tackle more dramatic roles in his near future. But just as those promises bubble to the surface, he reverts back to 40 Year-Old Virgin style of comedy and I am perplexed, frustrated and disappointed. I'd much rather see him go the way of Jim Carrey - i.e. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Man on the Moon.

      Carrell plays Dan, a widower of three girls with whom of course he can't relate (or even get a long with). Every fall the foursome heads north to Dan's folk's house on the lake to see all the relatives. While at the lake Dan's mother orders Dan out of the house for some "me" time. At a local bookstore Dan runs into the lovely Marie and the unlikely pair hit it off for several hours until Marie announces she has to rush to her boyfriend's house. When Dan arrives back to the lake house, there he finds marie and her boyfriend is Dan's younger brother Mitch (Dane Cook). So sets off a series of uncomfortable mishaps and comedic (and I use that term loosely) moments.

      Obviously the stand out here is Binoche. It's hard to believe she signed a contract to appear in this one as this is not her usual fare. Still, she is here and I think we should all be thankful for that. Her character is a stunning, charming and cultured woman who seems unlikely to ever be paired with either of these two brothers. Without her in the picture, I'm not sure how bearable the entire experience would've been.

      As romantic comedies go, Dan in Real Life is not really either. It's got several charming moments, but nothing that's overly funny; just barely chuckle-worthy routines. I mean really, in how many movies does someone hide in a shower, fully clothed, and then have the water turned on? Then to make it really funny, he falls off the roof into some bushes. Wow - originality strikes.

      Where there could've be some genuinely touching moments or the romantic half of the "romantic-comedy," is instead replaced by 90 minutes of uncomfortability. If you suspend your disbelief long enough to allow that Dan and Marie are truly in love, then you'll sit through the entire picture just upset and feeling frustrated that they can't be together in this houehold or even hint at it. It isn't really funny and it isn't cute. It's frustrating and uncomfortable.

      Besides Binoche, Steve Carrell is funny enough to carry us through what might otherwise be a dreadful picture. His sarcastic, dry and off-beat sense of humor, even though misplaced here, still works on its own and does provide for some good chuckles. His one-liners and general way of breaking the pace with some good comedic timing never really gets old in any format. Still, if this is all the movie has going for it, we basically have the equivalent of bare bones in what could've been a nice, big walleye supper of a movie.

      Having said all that, there is something charming about the whole thing. It sort of reminds me of a cross between last year's The Family Stone and Adrienne Shelly's Waitress. Neither had a lot going for them and were totally implausible, but still had enough charm and heart to keep me interested. So is the case with Dan in Real Life. Something that's hard to put a finger on but still heartwarming and touching. The dynamic of Dan and his three daughters, the loving parents that think they always know best, the huge array of siblings and in-laws and an exotic, beautiful woman all coming together for family comraderie (charades, football games, morning calisthenics and a talent show all work as truly touching and something strange that just warms the heart - as implausible and unbelievable as it may be.

      While Dan in Real Life is hardly the movie I would recommend to the masses, it may interest the select few just looking to get away for a while and look at the simple pleaures in life. Yes it's drivel, but its cute drivel with recognizable faces; thereby making it more than tolerable. Enjoyable even if you just let yourself go with it and think about how no family in the universe is like this at all. Dan in Real Life? It should've been titled, "Dan's Completely Unrealistic Life."

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IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site
Flixster Profile for Dan in Real Life