Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why Does Real Life feel like the Bestest Friends Episode Ever?!

Dan in Real Life

Release: 10/26/2007
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 35 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine) is Dan Burns. Dan is an advice columnist. He’s also a widow of four years who’s raising three headstrong daughters. After collecting his three very lovely girls, they join the Burns bunch for a family gathering where Dan is quickly ejected. At the bookstore, Dan meets Marie, portrayed by Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), who lights a spark extinguished since his wife’s death. Dan returns to the roost to find Marie is the special lady friend of his brother, Mitch, played by Dane Cook (London). Naturally, hijinks and heartache ensue.

It’s hard to believe writer/director Peter Hedges was also responsible for the far superior “Pieces of April.” "Dan in Real Life" is an over-simplified romantic comedy with the misfortune of being needlessly complicated in its surrounding details. To give an example, why does Dan’s extended family consist of two parents, six siblings, and an incalculable mass of nephews and nieces (including an adorable Asian adoptee) when all of his own children barely have speaking lines? Hedges is obsessed with barraging the audience with a hot mess of accoutrements as if to detract from the complete lack of palpable story. He also seems to be obsessed with torturing folks with a twangy, tinny soundtrack by Sondre Lerche.

The saving grace of “Dan in Real Life” is Steve Carell. His sincere, stellar performance drives the story, when it is not being overpowered by cheesy antics or boisterous costars. Dane Cook is reined back from being completely wild and outrageous but manages a few fun-loving moments. Not a great role for fans of the true Cook. Up-and-comer Brittany Robertson gives an outstanding showing as the enamored middle sister, Cara. The rest of the cast shows up, hits their mark, and makes an occasionally humorous wisecrack, but really, I’m wasting space even mentioning them.

Dirty Undies
The only physicality worth mentioning about “Dan” was my inner urge to rip out the chatty whispers, needless cooing and unbearable canned laughter coming from the throats of the audience at this screening. Oh yeah, and Dan gets tussled by his wacky family. On a good note Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada) and Juliette Binoche were kinda hot; Binoche thanks to the age-reversing cheesecloth effect, low tops, and spandex while Blunt is simply smokin'.

The Money Shot
There was no way I was going to miss a film starring both Carell and Cook. Having said that, I could have easily waited for this film to go to the cheap theater. Sitting through “Dan in Real Life” was like being bludgeoned with a bottle of maple syrup. The repeated blunt thudding to my forehead was painful but at least there’s a trickle of sugary sweetness escaping every so often.

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