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Dan in Real Life


Stars: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney

Director: Peter Hedges

This vehicle for the gentler side of Steve Carell is equal parts winning and annoying. Dan (Carell) is a widowed agony-uncle coping with three attractive daughters, the middle of whom (Brittany Robertson) is madly and irritatingly in love with a handsome fellow-student.

On a trip to stay with his fairly large family for the Fall holiday, Dan meets Marie (Binoche) in a bookstore and falls heavily at first sight: there's an instant connection between them.

Imagine his discomfort when she turns out to be the girlfriend of his brother (Cook), who has 'found true love' after a succession of bimbos who have appalled his (meddling) parents (Wiest, Mahoney). Dan is unable to subdue his new feelings entirely, resulting in some awkward moments without a resolution in sight.

Although Carell's performance has great charm in the face of indifferent material, there's something essentially bogus about all this. It's scarcely credible, for example, that Dan would actually slam the door in his daughter's (very presentable) boyfriend's face, or that he would refuse to let his sensible oldest daughter (Alison Pill) share the driving of their nondescript family car on the trip, despite describing her as a good driver.

His howls of romantic anguish as he plays guitar in front of the entire family (and Marie) are almost as ridiculous as his being asked to sleep in the laundry room where a massive washing machine thunders noisily through the night.

There are moments of course, when the script's intended ray of warmth actually shines through, especially when Dan first meets Marie, or achieves a rare connection with his daughters. Real life, however, only makes the odd guest appearance in this story. The script wants to paint Carell as a caring and cionsiderate father, but rarely gets him to behave like one.

David Quinlan

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Icon (Touchstone/Focus). Technicolor.
99 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 06 Jan 2008