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Dan in Real Life Movie Poster

Dan in Real Life: Movie Review

Four out of Five Stars
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Rated: PG-13
Directed by:
Peter Hedges
Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Marlene Lawston, Emily Blunt, Amy Ryan
Released by: Touchstone Pictures

In Short: Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche make a perfect couple in this funny, family-focused romantic comedy packed with terrific performances.

Finding Love the Second Time Around
A Romantic Comedy for the Whole Family
by Jenny Peters

After “Evan Almighty,” Steve Carell’s saccharine last movie outing, the thought of seeing him in a romantic comedy was a bit off-putting, with the worry that his latest would follow that sappy pattern. But happily, “Dan in Real Life” isn’t that at all. Instead, this movie hearkens back to Carell’s best (think “Little Miss Sunshine”), but with some key differences.

Yes, Carell is once again a slightly depressed middle-aged man, but this time he’s not a suicidal gay man. Here, as Dan Burns, he is a widower struggling to raise his three daughters while continuing to mourn his dead wife, despite the passing of four years since her death. As the story begins, Dan and the girls, ages seventeen, fourteen and eight, head off to his parents’ lovely Rhode Island seaside home for their annual visit with their extended family.

Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook in Dan in Real Life
Steve Carell in Dan in Real Life

It’s a family we come to love as the film unfolds, a well-adjusted brood with John Mahoney (“Frasier”) as the father, the always fabulous Dianne Wiest as the mother, and a likable Dane Cook as Mitch, Dan’s carefree younger brother. Mitch brings his gorgeous girlfriend, Marie (Juliette Binoche), along for the weekend, and that’s when the comedy begins. Dan is instantly smitten with her—and she with him—making her the first woman to stir his heart since the death of his wife.

Marlene Lawston and Juliette Binoche in Dan in Real Life
Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook in Dan in Real Life

The crackerjack dialogue and incredibly real characterizations of every member of this easygoing, caring, high-spirited family are what make “Dan in Real Life” such a smart, charming and often laugh-out-loud funny flick. Even better, the plot unfolds in unexpected ways as Dan and Marie stumble and fumble their way to true love, so despite knowing that the genre’s innate happy ending is inevitable, the journey there is a delight.

Plus, it isn’t that often that two fortysomething characters are portrayed in movies these days as vibrant, alive and just as deserving of love as twentysomething hotties. Just seeing that story told on the big screen makes “Dan in Real Life” worth the price of admission, especially for baby boomers who find themselves back in the singles’ scene in their own real lives. This terrific comedy is definitely a movie to love, reminding us that there’s hope for people of all ages to find romance at any moment.

(Updated 10/23/12 SC)

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