Dan in Real Life *** (out of ****)

Director: Peter Hedges
Writers: Pierce Gardner and Peter Hedgers
Cast: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Norbert Butz, John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest, Emily Blunt
Rating: PG-13 (innuendo)
Running Time: 99 min
Release Date: 10/26/07

Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a widower with three daughters. One is 17 the second is perhaps 15, and the last is nine. He writes a family advice column for the local newspaper and hopes for it to soon be syndicated. His 15-year-old has a big crush on a boy and his ability to follow his own advice is being strongly tested. Dan has had little hope and seemingly little interest in having a new lady in his life since his wife’s death a four years before.

However, it’s time of the year for the family’s annual Thanksgiving reunion at his parent’s beach home in Rhode Island. Dan his three daughters are soon on the road in spite of some strong opposition from his boy obsessed middle daughter.

Dan seems to be the guy who always gets dumped on in the family. He gets assigned to wash the dishes and has to bunk in the wash room with the dryer running. His mother has him get the morning newspaper at a store named "Books and Tackle" located on the ocean front. As he is browsing, an attractive lady is waiting patiently for the clerk, who is tied up on the phone. Dan takes the opportunity to wait on her and perhaps she doesn’t realize that he doesn’t work there at first. It seems she wants a reading suggestion and he makes several. They end up in a long conversation that lasts until she gets a cell phone call. She most go to meet her boyfriend. Dan does manage to get her phone number under the guise of continuing their conversation later.

When Dan returns to his parent’s house, he gets into a conversation with his brothers about the woman he met. Dan mentions that she is already involved to which his brother Mitch (Dane Cook) retorts, “If she doesn’t have rock on her left finger she is fair game.” Shortly thereafter Dan is formally introduced to Mitch’s new lady, who is none other than Marie (Juliette Binoche) who he had just met at the bookstore.

These events set up the rest of the movies situation comedy scenes. Dan and Marie are obviously very attracted to each other but both don’t want to hurt Mitch. At one point Dan even tries to just go home. This movie is a romantic comedy for adults but there is nothing that should deter parents from bringing their kids along. Steve Carell has very laid back style and works well with Juliette Binoche a French actress who speaks English without a noticeable accent. And, thinking of a French influence, the pacing is very similar to an Eric Rohmer movie. A great alternative for those who have no interest in Saw IV!


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