Plot: Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a widowed advice columnist with three daughters. He meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore and immediately falls for her, but then Dan realizes Marie is his brother’s (Dane Cook) girlfriend. Chaos ensues when they are all under one roof with the rest of the Burns family at their parents’ annual get-together.
Who’s it for: No matter what it looks like, this is an average romantic comedy, though I could see this film appealing to the father who has daughters and feels like he is in over his head.
Expectations: The preview seems to be all about an advice columnist whose life unravels because he doesn’t follow his own wisdom. Nothing really looks funny in the preview, but then some film critic proclaimed Carell should be nominated for an Oscar, so I was interested.
Steve Carell as Dan: Is the world really against Dan? I just never felt it. There were a couple of moments when Carell is simply doing his character from “The Office,” which isn’t appealing for a father of three.
Dane Cook as Mitch: Once again the female lead comments that Cook’s character has a good sense of humor (just like in “Good Luck Chuck”). Once again, Cook provides zero laughs. Plus, “Dan in Real Life” never gives us any insight into Mitch until the very end when we realize he’s just shallow.
Juliette Binoche as Marie: Here’s the problem, with Marie as the woman in the middle of Dan and Mitch, she never seems that unhappy, especially when she works out with Mitch. Then, when Ruthie (Emily Blunt) shows up suddenly, Marie plays the role of a scorned lover.
Talking: Whenever there should be a long conversation that would straighten everything out there are distractions such as football, charades and bowling. Plus, the one conversation that is supposed to showcase Dan and Marie falling for each other is a one-sided highlight/lowlight reel of Dan’s life.
Sights and sounds: Many of the songs are brought to you by Sondre Lerche. Though he is not very well-known, I’ve been a fan of his music for a while. Unfortunately, it’s more distracting during the film with many moments just not fitting with the songs. And then when he actually shows up and plays at the end of the film, I am stuck wondering how much money “real” people would need to drop for a private concert.
Best Scene: I’ll save this space for “Random Thoughts.”
Ending: Did we really need everything to turn out perfectly?
Random Thoughts: How do we know Dan is an advice columnist? They tell us at the very beginning, but they rarely reference any columns or advice he has dispensed in the past. Plus, when Mitch clearly steals some lines from Dan’s book, no one in the family seems to notice? Also, aren’t we led to believe that Dan has sex with Ruthie? Why would Marie desire him after this? And Dan is just ridiculously bad at talking to the middle daughter Cara (Brittany Robertson), to the point where he needs to consider quitting that day job.
Rewatchability: I have a bad feeling I will be watching this film in the future on an airplane, with the woman next to me thinking it’s the greatest thing since “Must Love Dogs.”
“Dan in Real Life” attempts to take a “Three’s A Company” situation and mix it together with a widower trying to raise three children. This is not cool. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Dan no matter what he does simply because his wife passed away. A great ensemble cast (Diane Wiest, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt, Carell and Binoche) is wasted with one-dimensional characters. This is just an average film and there is nothing wrong with that, but the annoyance comes from using a situation like a dead wife to try to make us think this is more. “Dan” attempts to get us to believe this is all real life and real problems when it comes off more like unbelievable fiction.
Overall Grade: 5