Dan in Real Life
reviewed by Andrew James
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.
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."
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Flixster Profile for Dan in Real Life