Actor Steve Carrell isn’t someone in the movie biz whose work I find funny. (Well, with exception to his vocal talent of Gru in the hilarious Despicable Me films.) Still when watching the trailer for this comedy, I decided that when the DVD release came, it deserved a look. What I came away with is a mix bad of disappointment and some genuine surprises.
Dan in Real Life (2007) Film Review
Something strange happens to Dan. It’s confusing. It’s awkward. It’s family. A relationship columnist, Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a widower with one big problem; he’s raising three daughters, two of which are teenagers (enough said!). Dan’s day starts out badly when he slams the door on middle daughter Cara’s boyfriend and only gets worse when on the way to his parents annual family reunion he won’t let oldest daughter Jane (Allison Pill) drive.
Surviving the trip, upon his arrival at his family’s lakeside home, Dan ends up meeting newcomer Marie (Juliette Binoche). After a lengthy conversation in which Dan actually feels something since his wife’s death, Dan thinks now maybe he has met someone with whom he can develop a friendship. Little does Dan know what surprise awaits him.
FILM REVIEW | Instant Family – A Comedy That Teaches of Life, and Love
This 2007 comedy has pros and cons. The main problem I have with this story is the fact that, we the audience pick up on these flaws. Dan’s seem to go beyond making a mistake or two, and most of which were within the scope of control and should have gone differently. Because of this, the writing does something we never want; at times it makes us dislike him. Both Dan and Marie make silly, immature choices, and yet one doesn’t feel too sorry for the “injured” party (again, because choices). Not only is it wrong for the adults involved but in the end Dan should have been practicing what he was constantly preaching to his daughter.
Carell is known for being a comedic actor, and while Dan in Real Life is probably one of this “tamer” projects, there were certain aspects that were meant to be comic, only to miserably fail. During the bulk of the film, Dan acts akin to a fifteen year old rather than the adult who’s raising three daughters. Granted the intention for this is for laughs so perhaps I’m being “too hard” on the comedy, but it simply doesn’t hold up. Especially as this element confuses the plot; is this a slapstick comedy or a dramedy?
Now for the good (and, yes, I do have some!). Dan and daughter Lily share some special moments, and then the meet-cute between Dan and Marie is sweet, and fun (ah, book lovers!), and the bowling scene between Dan and Marie is also special. The story is really what is best about this movie. The promise is here, it’s just a bit rougher around the edges; the family is “real” and is portrayed superbly as such, even if some of the acting fails (fans of Emily Blunt, you may like to know that she also has a cameo appearance). All three young actresses who play Dan’s daughters are excellent and Carell is fine (again, not a fan).
As I’ve thought about this film off and on, I can say, it’s enjoyable. Despite the flaws, it has a lovely ending in which Dan is able to mend everything nicely especially with his daughters and the more I think on it, the more I find the ending perfect. If you’re just looking for something that isn’t faultless and you’re able to overlook some of its mishaps, Dan in Real Life is worth a rental fee.
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Content: there is some innuendo [there’s a question raised about how long it’s been since a character was with someone], and a scene – for laughs – involving an adult couple in the shower. Language is very minimal if it’s there at all. The film is rates PG13.