Damn, I wanted so much more from this. I thought, from the trailer, that I was getting a clever, possibly subversive, romantic movie, perhaps something like Eternal Sunshine or even Once. I thought more focus would be placed on the main character and his tribulations. Instead, this came dangerously close to becoming a male version of The Family Stone.
While Steve Carell was genius as always, and rather heartbreaking in scenes, I was still forced to watch the big, happy, quirky family, who just never listened until it was vital to the story. In fact, many annoying things just suddenly happen when they absolutely must to keep us on Dan's side. For instance, Dan's in love with his brother's girl -- never a good thing, but worse when the movie does that thing where it has us love the brother in the beginning, then slightly loathe him in the end when it's time for the true lovers to come together.
That was this movie's failure -- too many irons in the fire. Dan was getting over the death of his wife, he was in love with Marie, his brother had Marie, All well and good. But there was that huge family that did very little to propel the story. Brothers and sisters popped in only to make Dan uncomfortable, or to show how little he was understood by those closest to him. I don't know if we needed 17 family members, seemingly without problems of their own, to do that.
The juice of the story, between Dan, his brother, Marie, and Dan's three kids, was good, for the most part. Dan and Marie felt like they should be together, although I wasn't convinced when suddenly she got all jealous when Dan met another woman for drinks. Marie had made really no attempt to let us or Dan know she liked him, so her outward jealousy didn't fit with the film's other subtleties. She climbs all over the brother one minute and then wants to be jealous when Dan has a date? Sorry, but that just did not make sense to me.
I don't know, stuff like that just bugged me in this. It was romantic and well-written only in parts. Otherwise, it was stock-standard and a bit dumb. When the parents were standing there at the end telling Dan to "go for it" with Marie, I'm thinking -- where did that come from? Weren't we all just horrified that Dan would betray his brother so harshly?
Anyway... Steve Carell made the movie. I enjoy him a lot. But I'm going to have to drop this a point for some terrible situations here. Including an horrendously misguided wedding sequence at the end (sugar attack and ... blurgh).
Dan in Real Life was light, unoffensive, dysfunctional family fare - pretty much everything I hate in movies today.
Why do movie families have to be so fake? Who actually has a crossword puzzle competition on a family holiday? And a family talent show? It reeks of The Brady Bunch in the worst possibly way. I half-expected Steve Carell and Dane Cook to build a house of cards in the end to see who goes home with the girl.
And then there's the shower scene. Can someone explain to me how this was anything other that just plain fucking creepy? I know it was supposed to be cute and uncomfortable, but Jeez-Louise!
Steve Carell was good as the widowed Dan, but we've seen him play this sort of introverted nice-guy before in The 40 Year Old Virgin, so he wasn't exactly exploring new territory here. And neither, it seems, were the writers, Pierce Gardner and Peter Hedges. (