DAN IN REAL LIFE
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Steve Carell as DAN BURNS
Juliette Binoche as MARIE
Dane Cook as MITCH BURNS
John Mahoney as POPPY BURNS
Emily Blunt as RUTHIE DRAPER
Dianne Wiest as NANA BURNS
Directed by: Peter Hedges
BY KEVIN CARR
Steve Carell has gained a reputation for being one of the nicest funnymen in Hollywood. After being thrown some choice supporting roles (e.g., “Anchorman” and “Bruce Almighty”), one huge hit (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) and a popular television show (“The Office”), the industry has been desperately trying to find a niche for this guy.
He’s had his missteps, mainly because as dynamic as Carell is, he’s hard to nail down into a stereotype. He’s not an action star or a romantic lead. Yet, everyone loves him – from the studios to the audiences. And flops like “Evan Almighty” aside, he might have struck paydirt with “Dan in Real Life.”
This movie follows a widower name Dan Burns (Carell) who has three daughters. He’s trying to be everything he can to them, while writing an advice column about parenting in the newspaper. But things aren’t as easy as he makes them out to be in his column. Two of his daughters are teenagers, and with no spouse to balance things out, the family is a bit of a powder keg.
Things come to head in his life when Dan takes his girls on an annual family getaway, and he meets a woman named Marie (Juliette Binoche) in town that he is instantly attracted to. The problem is that she’s the new girlfriend of his brother. Dan must resolve his family issues over the weekend while fighting with his new feelings for Marie.
In the hands of a lesser actor, “Dan in Real Life” would be quite unbearable. But Steve Carell brings a level of honesty and empathy to the role. He might seem like the king of goofy, inappropriate comedy, but the guy’s longevity might lie in heartfelt, adult roles like this.
I’ll admit that on the surface, “Dan in Real Life” isn’t my cup of tea. I prefer a little more dysfunction in my dysfunctional family comedies. Think of this as “The Family Stone” light, without all the sex. In many ways, this is too warm and fuzzy for me.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in this film is Dane Cook, who ruins the screen whenever he’s on it. The guy was overexposed in 2007, and this movie works in spite of him. The other stumbling block is the unrealistic idea that a family this big could live for a weekend in such a small house. Seriously, if you stuck my family in a remote cabin for a weekend, the film would more closely resemble “Saw IV” than this movie.
The DVD comes with a ton of deleted scenes with commentary by director Peter Hedges, who also lends his voice to a feature commentary as well. There’s also a series of outtakes and two featurettes, one on the making of the film and the other on the music.