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Dan in Real Life: Real Life Is Boring

My reaction to Dan in Real Life is a big fat "eh." I chuckled a few times, rolled my eyes a little bit, and questioned Dane Cook's sexuality. I also felt some sadness toward Juliette Binoche and Steve Carell, two actors who seem to have been charged with providing the charm for this movie entirely, and who both give up under the pressure. Because I like these actors very much, it depresses me to report that Dan in Real Life is forgettable.

Carell plays Dan, an advice columnist and widower with three daughters. He comes from one of those big, goofy, aw-shucks families you only see in movies. The stupidly flawless kind of family that has crossword competitions! And talent shows! And group aerobics on the front lawn! It's so saccharine my teeth started to ache. Apparently the "humor" of the film is supposed to come from the fact that Dan doles out flecks of wisdom on parenting and life, yet he's illogically overprotective with his own girls and he ends up falling in love with his brother's new girlfriend. Unfortunately, it's not humorous enough to be a comedic success, and not compelling enough to be heartwarming. To see more of what I mean,

Here's my main annoyance with the movie: it's supposed to be ironic because he's an advice columnist who can't seem to succeed as a father/brother/son/boyfriend/person? He's human and flawed? Who cares? For one thing, they don't do nearly a good enough job making us see what a "fantastic" advice columnist Dan is. So why should we care when he's attracted to his brother's girlfriend? For another thing, while I love Steve Carell, his attempts to be (I think) a struggling widower who's clumsily entering back into the dating world come off as distracted, slightly ashamed and a little sleepy. Nothing about this movie gets me to care about Dan, in his real life or otherwise.

The best things about the film are Juliette Binoche and the music, provided entirely by Sondre Lerch. Binoche is beautiful, self-assured, funny and warm as The Perfect Woman, Marie. The moments that have any real spark at all are when Binoche has reason to be passionate. When Marie is jealous of Dan's date with another woman, she burns Dan's pancakes the next morning and glares at him while he eats them in front of her, a moment that contains a surprising mix of comedy and sexual tension. These fiery moments are only that, however: momentary, and they are mostly dependent upon Binoche's irresistible charm. Lerche's music adds a relaxing ease to the movie, making otherwise lame scenes tolerable.

The narrative, such as it is, doesn't just trudge along dopily, it meanders and veers woozily from side to side. At no point did I have confidence that this was all leading someplace satisfying. The artful, truthful beauty that director Peter Hedges achieved in Pieces of April is utterly missing. It's like his creativity plodded around in a circle for a while before curling up and going to sleep. I had a kind of naive optimism about this movie but found that real life really is pretty disappointing — even in the movies.


Join The Conversation
AutumnWind AutumnWind 9 years
I LOVED it! Can't wait for the dvd!
littlebmac littlebmac 9 years
Go see this movie! I loved it. The music was great but the comedy between Steve and Juliette is wonderful. I laughed so much. I really liked the human elements such as having flaws and insecurities that they both have and what their expectations are for a relationship. They understand each other so well that the best scenes are with them where they don't speak a word to each other but their body language says it all.
Megatron Megatron 9 years
The movie was cute, but I am honestly glad I paid the matinee price. I totally agree with all the Dane Cook comments. I also think the girl who played the middle daughter was amazing!
DarkerMyLove DarkerMyLove 9 years
I got two free passes specifically for this movie and blew it off. I got them, like, the day the movie was released in theatres. I guess I should've taken that as a sign. :rotfl:
mrskrismendoza mrskrismendoza 9 years
It looks boring.
wishbone317 wishbone317 9 years
I really liked this movive- it was a decent family watch. Although it wasn't my favorite of all time, I would watch anything to see Steve Carrell. He's so loveable.
JennaV JennaV 9 years
Dane Cook is probably the least funny "comedian" ever and a shitty actor. WHY does he keep getting cast??? He must have a deal with the devil.
maddiemay maddiemay 9 years
I go to MAYBE 3 movies a year and was SO excited to see this one-- went last night and was so disappointed! I wanted more Steve Carrell- ness and it just didn't live up to my expectations. It was VERY much like The Family Stone. I am easy to please and still was not loving this movie!
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
Great review, Buzz. I appreciate your honest, balanced assessment of the film. I'll still see it when it's out on DVD just to see Juliette Binoche and Steve Carell together on the same screen.
Fellora Fellora 9 years
I saw it today and I liked it. It's a nice feel good movie. Don't go in there expecting to laugh the whole time. It has some funny moments, but it's basically a movie about a man dealing with relationships with his daughters, family, and a woman he loves. Dane Cook did grate on my nerves a couple of times, but the movie is still very enjoyable.
brownlaydee brownlaydee 9 years
love him, can't wait to see this movie
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 9 years
I was looking forward to this movie coming out too, but if it's too sweet I may get sick. But I like the cast so much, so that's a letdown.
mallomar mallomar 9 years
Too bad; I had high hopes for this one. This review reminds me of "The Family Stone"- I had high hopes that it would be funny and heartwarming, and instead it was just kind of 'meh'.
tiff58 tiff58 9 years
I really have wanted to see this. I hope it's not as bad as the review. :-/
emalove emalove 9 years
I'm still going to watch it, I'm a huge Steve Carrell fan! And I agree with those above who think Dane Cook sucks...I feel the same way.
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
Dane Cook needs to go away. Nuff said!
lindar lindar 9 years
Are you kidding? I saw a screening of this film before it came out, and I have to disagree. Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche are utterly charming, and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (Steve Carell's second daughter delivers one of the funniest lines in the film). There's a sense of simplicity to the film that can be confused with boring or forgettable, but it worked for me. I don't think the focus of the movie's was the irony of Dan being an advice columnist, but rather his flawed relationship with his daughters. So it was great that the ending brought everything to a full circle because very things that he didn't want his daughters to do in the beginning of the film are the things he comes to relate to. 4 stars for me!
Ava-Gardner Ava-Gardner 9 years
Loving "big fat eh" :D
indielove indielove 9 years
Maybe Steve should just stick with Judd Apatow.
Francesca-Fiore Francesca-Fiore 9 years
Shoot, I keep on hearing how disappointing this film is. I really like just about every person in the cast, with the exception of Captain How-Does-This-Idiot-Keep-Getting-Hired Dane Cook. Things do not sound promising. I'll pass for now.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
When are people going to admit that Dane Cook isn't funny and can't act???
Hootie Hootie 9 years
Thanks for the great review! I really wanted to see this. I'm in no rush now. I will wait for it to come out on DVD!
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
Hahaha, thank you t and co! That is great to hear, actually. :) I'm happy to know I can provide some kind of service as you make your movie-watching decisions!
t-and-co t-and-co 9 years
Buzz, I love your section of the site, it's probably my favorite, but I have to say...I know I'm going to like a movie if you didn't like it so much. lol. At least we can agree to disagree.
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