Steve Carell stars in this dramedy about family and finding love and while being solid throughout, never really excels to anything much higher.
Carell Stars as Dan, a parental advice columnist who finds out he might get to go national through syndication as he leaves for an annual family get away with his parents and siblings at the family cabin. His home front is under assault by two of his three daughters, one who he won’t allow to drive and the other he won’t let be with a boy. The angst comes at him from both sides but he puts up a reasonable parental front that is the right thing to do, even if everyone doesn’t agree.
Upon reaching the cabin, tensions running high among the nucleus family, Dan’s mother suggest he go blow off some steam in town where Dan meets, Marie, the first woman to interest him since his wife passed away. After a long conversation Marie is forced to quickly leave and Dan is left longing for the one who might get away. The plot quickly thickens after this, but I will let you discover that on your own.
Carell does a really fantastic job as the coping father figure torn between love and his obligations to his family that comes across sad, but is still able to bring a number of laughs to the table. Juliette Binoche is also extremely likable as Marie and you can tell how Dan falls for her so easily.
Where the movie struggles though is that it is a tad unbelievable that this family is so gun ho and family oriented playing games and putting on talent shows, it’s just all a bit too hokey for my taste. By the finale, the film is a mushy mess that is just too sentimental for its own good. The large family of Burns’ is also a bit unnecessary and the movie makes no effort to get to know any of them other then Dane Cook’s Mitch, who is a weak character who is further weakened by the actor playing him.
The film also feels like it missed a couple of opportunities to spice up the plot and add some good laughs, but instead always plays it safe and doesn’t get fairly inventive along the way. It embraces slapstick randomly then goes for subtle humor the next; it just feels like it didn’t know what it wanted to be. Though, I give the film credit for feeling very real with a plot that we have seen before and that works well till we get to the mush at the end.
Dan in Real Life has a consistent flow of laughs that is unfortunately muddled by a lot of unnecessary stuff through out. Pair this with the fact that there seems to be a bit of confusion with the film as to what it really wants to be, while wasting a number of decent actors on roles that don’t do a damn thing, it’s just all a bit perplexing. Entertaining enough for a rental and definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of Carell if you want to see him do something a bit different then he has been.