Dan in Real Life Peter Hedges

Dan in Real Life Peter Hedges
Steve Carell has become the go-to guy it seems for virtually any kind of comedy: ineptly inappropriate office manager; chaste middle-ager; suicidal, gay uncle; Noah incarnate; the brainless Maxwell Smart. He has range and somehow pulls it all off — even in Evan Almighty — without alienating his fans. As advice columnist and dad of three Dan Burns, Carell fulfils his obvious potential as a rom-com lead in Dan in Real Life. Fate strikes Dan en route to his parents’ Rhode Island cottage when he meets Marie (Juliet Binoche) in a local bookstore. Smitten with her, Dan heads to his family with crush in tow only to discover Marie is already dating his brother (played by Dane Cook). Awkward! From there, Dan tries to both avoid and pursue his feelings for Marie while avoiding the trappings of his situation, the overwhelming familial environment, the complications of his blossoming girls and oddly, one certain police officer. The family affair aims for a natural chemistry, and the bond is in there amongst most of the well-chosen cast, but often the activities and harmony come off as a little too calculated. The inability of a grandstanding comic like Cook to blend into an ensemble is obvious; he looks uncomfortable playing the second fiddle to Carell and everyone suffers for it. In addition, the children, especially Dan’s youngest, are far too wise beyond their years, reaching Dawson’s Creek levels of unbelievable maturity. That’s a lot of nit picking, sure, but Carell certainly carries this film on his back for a touching, amusing and virtual performance that far outweighs Real Life’s undeniable flaws. Nonetheless, it’s an ideal flick for both dates and families. Carell’s brief mean-spirited sarcasm saves a "making of” from falling into the usual self-congratulatory fluff, and it’s nice to see such emphasis put on Sondre Lerche’s wonderful score in a featurette called "Handmade Music,” demonstrating the importance of the Norwegian’s music to the film. The deleted scenes feel almost necessary for once, filling in moments that were wisely cut, though still relevant, like the full family talent show and Dan’s lesson in eating peas. Plus: director commentary. (Buena Vista)