‘Dan in Real Life’: One of the best thus far

Thu, 10/25/2007 - 4:18pm
By: Emily Baldwin

“Dan in Real Life” – a movie I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I first saw the trailer for it before “Stardust” – finally debuts in theaters today. I was lucky enough to see a pre-release screening of the new film starring Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche, and I’m happy to report it was everything I had hoped for and more.

If you know me, or if you listen to the Citizen Popcast, featuring Michael Boylan and me, (on TheCitizen.com) on Fridays, then you know of my “minor” obsession with “The Office” and everything related to “The Office” (if you are asking yourself what “The Office” is, Google it and thank me later). So, it should come as no surprise that I was anxiously awaiting the release of Carell’s next foray into the dramatic realm.

Dan Burns is an advice columnist on the verge of getting nationally syndicated. He is also a widower and a devoted father to three daughters who are currently, or on the cusp of becoming, full blown teenagers – a daunting time for a pair of parents and a terrifying time for a single father! Dan feels he is losing control of his daughters and doesn’t quite know how to regain entrance into their lives, despite his ability to dish out parenting advice for his loyal readers week-in and week-out.

When his entire extended family gets together for a reunion in a beach-front house, Dan finds himself the object of his family’s worries. Encouragement for him to get back into the dating scene results in Dan falling for a beautiful woman at the small town’s bookstore. The problem arises when Dan’s brother Mitch (Dane Cook) introduces his new girlfriend, who just so happens to be Dan’s new love-interest.

While “Dan in Real Life” is nowhere near as dark as “Little Miss Sunshine,” this dramedy does deal with some serious topics, and audiences once again get to bask in the marvelous glow of Carell’s incredible ability to morph from the goofy and somewhat obnoxious character of Michael Scott to the goofy and somewhat heart-wrenching character of Dan Burns. His capacity to make you laugh and then cry within moments is what makes Carell one of today’s best actors.

Binoche is lovely as always in the role of Marie, the mysterious and worldly pinnacle of the Burns’ family love triangle. Cook manages to play the supporting comedy role with success and doesn’t overwhelm his scenes, as he is sometimes apt to do. He adds just the right amount of humor to the scene, and I’m thankful that he kept a reign on his larger-than-life personality.

John Mahoney (“Frasier”) plays Dan’s father and Dianne Wiest (“Footloose,” “Edward Scissorhands”) plays his mother. Both add humor and experience in their supporting roles.

Other supporting cast members who caught my attention were Dan’s youngest daughters, Cara (Brittany Robertson) and Lilly (Marlene Lawston). Robertson’s comedic timing was impressive and I expect to see her in bigger roles in the future.

One aspect of the film that I particularly enjoyed is that it hasn’t suffered from overexposure. In this way it has the feel of an independent film with big names attached to it. Hopefully the distributors’ minimalistic approach to “Dan in Real Life” won’t be negatively reflected in the box office numbers, because this is one film you have to see. The film is rated PG-13 for some innuendo, but I feel there is nothing inappropriate for teens on up.

I can’t wait to get back to the theater to see “Dan in Real Life” for a second time – maybe I’ll see you there.


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