Dan in Real Life

Joe says:

I wasn’t even INTERESTED in seeing this movie; I had to go for a class. Sure, I could’ve seen anything for that paper, but I was at the mall at noon, and that was the only thing starting right then.

Dan (Steve Carell, who normally I find to be very funny) was the protagonist – a newspaper columnist who writes advice for family life issues despite his household being a train wreck in slow motion. The wife is dead and the daughters are (mostly) moody teenagers. Cue the obvious irony.

For some reason completely unknown to me, they all go up the east coast to the grandparents’ house. The entire living family seems to have assembled at thisdaninreallife.gif clusterfu—I mean, family reunion, but on the way there, Dan meets a woman, Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a book store and there is instant chemistry. They have to part, but they soon meet up again – at the house. Marie is his brother Mitch’s (Dane Cook) new girlfriend, unbeknownst to Dan before. The balance of the movie isn’t even a competition for her; it’s more just Dan slowly breaking down watching his brother’s relationship with his crush bloom and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it.

I was bothered by this movie, and by more than the moderately-creative forbidden love story that couldn’t be resolved without a battle royale climax. I sat through this film wondering WHO THE HELL ACTUALLY HAS A FAMILY LIKE THIS? They all gather at the big house, do aerobics, have talent shows, play touch football, and have crossword puzzle competitions for what I can only assume was a period of longer than a week? What out-of-touch idiot thought this would be a realistic view on the American family? Of all the things that left a bad taste in my mouth about this movie, it was them. Who the hell are these people, and why do they think this is normal?

The daughters were mostly annoying as well. One of them basically spends the whole movie trying to jump some 16-year-old guy’s bones or however the hell old he was, and when daddy said no, she whined and pouted and kicked and screamed yada yada yada. OK, we get the point; he’s your quasi-boyfriend and that’s adorable, but shut the hell up.

Dan is a pretty bad father, which is evident throughout the first 90% of the movie, and it bothered me mildly about how long it took him to realize it. It was almost hard to watch some of these scenes where he’s totally bombing with his daughters, because it’s all just arguing.

The climax and resolution of the love triangle were unsatisfying because they were fairly inconclusive. In fact, the whole plot was, too. There was a lot of boring fluff and pointless interaction in between events that actually moved the story forward. We don’t know how things actually end up, but Dan and Mitch hate each other and Marie flees, but Dan goes to find her, while Every Family USA pretty much just watches and hopes that it doesn’t interfere with their afternoon board game tournament of champions. Not really a happy ending.

It was half good and half bad – meh, if you will. I can tell that someone actually gave a damn somewhere along the line, the acting was decent, and parts were mildly amusing. The characters are mostly cloying and unlikable and a sizable majority of the plot was lame. Its overall message of “love conquers all” is cute but didn’t really do anything for me. Don’t be fooled into thinking that because Steve Carell is in it that it’s a comedy; it’s a romanticomedrama (if no one else has come up with this word, I am hereby copyrighting it as my own personal intellectual property). There’s nothing special or particularly memorable about the movie other than how far removed from mainstream America the family is.

In other news, Dane Cook was surprisingly decent.

Added: Now the commercials for the DVD/Blu-ray release of this movie are trying very hard to portray it as a comedy. Most of it really wasn’t funny at all, and a lot of the scenes being used weren’t humorous in their original contexts. For example, when Mitch assaults Dan in the bowling alley, that WASN’T supposed to bring out laughter…he was pissed off that his brother stole his girlfriend and it was highly emotional. And the irritating “you’re a murderer of love!” screeching wasn’t comical, even if it was intended to be. For their false advertising in trying to pass off a romanticomedrama as a Steve Carell schtickfest, I am deducting 5 points from my original review score of 50.

Grade: 45


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