Written by Pierce Gardner and Peter Hedges
Directed by Peter Hedges
Running Time: 1:38
for some innuendo.
Dan in Real Life was a fun, if sometimes random, romantic comedy that was held together by its cast.
Dan is an advice columnist who's wife died a few years earlier and is struggling to raise his 3 daughters alone. While on a family reunion, he meets Marie in a bookstore and after only a short time with her, falls in love. The problem is, Marie is dating Dan's brother Mitch. The three of them are forced to live together in the same house, alongside a dozen other family members. Dan not only has to figure out how to deal with his daughters, he now has to learn to deal with his own emotions.
Dan in Real Life was enjoyable for me because I love Steve Carell. No matter what he does I always find him to be a very likeable guy. He's got a very friendly warmth about him that makes you like his characters no matter what he may do. So even though he coveted his brother's girlfriend, I still found myself hoping he'd win her over. That was a problem because Mitch (played by the toned down Dane Cook) was also a rather nicer person. It wasn't as if Mitch was obviously a jerk, so he was easy to root against. They were just three people who all had their good qualities and I wanted Dan to win.
The rest of the ensemble cast was pretty strong. With the likes of Cook, John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest and Juliette Binoche amongst others, you've got a talented acting crew. I'm not a big Dane Cook fan (and if I hear how there's only ONE OCTOBER! one more time I might scream) but he was relaxed in this film and just an actor, not a comedian. He knew perfectly well that the real funnyman in this movie was Carell. The scenes where there were laugh out loud humor came mostly from Carell, even if it wasn't a real laugh out loud film. It wasn't as strong a dark comedy as a
Little Miss Sunshine but it was a good romantic comedy.
That being said, there were a bunch of things that I didn't like or didn't make sense. One of the things I dislike most about movies is when two characters fall in love with each other based on nothing. In this case, Dan and Marie meet in a bookstore, and she goes off on needing a certain kind of book. I have no idea what the point of that was but she rambled on for a while. Then the two of them go off and talk for a while. In 'movie time' they talked for about 3 minutes. In 'real' time it may have been an hour, 3 hours, 24 hours, I'm not quite sure. But all they did was have a conversation and Dan even says he did all the talking. So what was it about her that made him like her so much? Besides her being attractive. When they both arrive (separately) at the house, her personality shines through a little more, so I can see what he would be attracted to, but don't you think a grown man can control his emotions better? He knew this woman for a very short time, then finds out she's dating his brother, and instead of backing off, he comes forward. I know this is only a movie and things are contrived to make them work out, but none of their relationship felt real, it all felt forced.
There were a few other scenes that felt so far out of reality they didn't even make sense in a film. I'll give you one example then let you go. Marie is about to take a shower, so Dan decides this is the time to go talk to her. In the bathroom. First he has to sneak past his daughter who is on the phone, then he walks into the bathroom to talk. Then another daughter wants to come in, so Dan hides in the shower. The other daughter needs to talk to Marie, but doesn't want Marie to miss her shower, so she just sits on the toilet and tells Marie to go ahead and get in the shower. Who does that? With a woman you've known for 2 days you feel comfortable enough to tell her to get naked and shower while you sit and talk to her? And let me remind you that Dan was already hiding in the shower. You can see how contrived things are to get Dan and Marie in the shower together. He's fully clothed and she's naked and his daughter is inches away, oblivious to everything. There were so many moments like this that while I enjoyed the characters and the actors, it wasn't a movie that I could really love.
The DVD has a reasonable amount of extras on it. There are 11 deleted scenes, most of which are around 30 seconds, with a couple that go longer. One of them is an extended family showcase which was fun. There's an outtake reel which basically shows the cast members laughing. There is a director's commentary track, and two documentaries. One of them is about the music, which is important to the film. Then the other is a behind-the-scenes making-of doc. Both tend to be a little bit on the fluffy side, with everyone saying how much passion and love everyone else has. There are some interesting tidbits. All in all the reason to buy the movie is for the movie itself, not from the extras.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, Dan in Real Life is held together mainly by the likeability of the cast. It's not a laugh-a-minute comedy, but a sweet romantic one that has a lot of unbelievable scenes, but enough warmth to make it worthwhile.
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