With Steve Carrell in the lead role, the story of a widower raising three girls (the middle of which might actually be Satan) and falling for a stranger in a book store only to find out (SPOILER) that it’s his brother’s girlfriend makes for a cute film.
Presumably, the movie is based on what director Peter Hedges perceives to be real life with the plot centralizing on Dan whisking his girls away on their annual trip to help his parents and the rest of his family close up their summer cabin for the season.
Along the way they do quirky things like put on a talent show, engage in a battle-of-the-sexes crossword puzzle and make pancakes for one another. The audience is made to believe these are annual rituals. It’s all very quaint, but, as we wondered in the review, do any families actually do this? It seems that after more than a handful of days together, most families would wind up killing each other off one-by-one in a Hunger Games sort of way.
For the love of Christ, one of them is Dane Cook (with the douchiness turned up to 11)! You are telling us that no one would have tried to murder him with a shovel after the first meal?
The role of Dan (I’m not really sure we ever get a last name, maybe it’s “In Real Life” ?) suits Carrell well, but despite a strong start with Binoche, the chemistry seems to fade as the movie progresses. Coincidentally, Amy Ryan is also in this film in a small role. Perhaps best known as The Office’s Holly Flax, Ryan and Carrell would go on to share incredible chemistry in the show and it makes you wonder if the movie would have been better if it were her playing Binoche’s role. A similar question could be asked of the Cook role, actually, so maybe it was just the casting of the movie that drove Bret nuts.
In the end, it is Dan’s relationships with his daughters and, to a lesser degree, his parents, that form the heart of the movie and make it enjoyable.
There are worse movies than Dan In Real Life and, if you are a Carrell fan as Bret and Erin are, it is fun film, netting four stars from Erin and 3.5 from Bret.