‘Dan in Real Life’ really unrealistic, dull

Andrew Gaug

Photo Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

Credit: Ron Soltys

Judging solely from the previews for Dan In Real Life, it’s hard to tell exactly what the movie is about.

Dan in Real Life

Starring JStarring Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook and John MahoneyDirected by Peter Hedged

Distributed by Touchstone Pictures

Rated PG-13 Runtime 98 min.

Stater rating (out of five): **

The trailer makes it look like a love story where two brothers fight over the same women, while commercials have it appear as a comedy about a hapless self-help columnist who can’t figure out how to run his own life.

In the end, it’s a little of both. Sadly, neither story is interesting.

Steve Carell plays Dan Burns, a local celebrity because of his advice columns in the newspaper, as well as a widower with three children. Despite being able to tell strangers what to fix in their lives, he has little to no idea on how to raise his three daughters.

A family trip to Boston shows the viewer that not everybody in his family is quite as jaded. He’s got loving parents (“Law & Order”‘s Dianne Wiest and “Frasier”s John Mahoney) and two goofy brothers (Dane Cook and newcomer Nobert Leo Butz).

Of course, this also goes awry as Burns falls for the girlfriend of his brother Mitch (Cook), Marie (Juliette Binoche). Chaos and predictable situations better meant for a Ben Stiller comedy ensue from there.

There are many problems with Dan In Real Life, the main one being Dan himself. Steve Carell has made a great career out of playing awkward characters, but was able to give them a wacky sense of warmth. Dan is just immature.

Other characters fare no better as Dan’s children. You feel like they were ripped from the Cheaper By The Dozen cliché characters handbook.

It doesn’t help that Peter Hedges, the screenwriter of About a Boy and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? rushes through the movie as if there were severe time constraints on the film. This causes scenes which matter, such as Dan telling Marie how his wife died, to be glossed over in favor of cheesy, “our family is perfect” scenes.

By the time the predictable and far-fetched ending comes around, it becomes clear that this isn’t a movie as much as it’s the long-lost film version of “Full House” with a little better acting and a few honest laughs.

What Dan is looking for in Dan in Real Life, is what the movie lacks — a sense of reality.

Contact all reporter Andrew Gaug at [email protected].