DVD review It's in Carell's hands that the film turns into a sweet, engaging comedy for and about grown-ups, says Tracey Lazos.
Dan in Real Life
On the surface there's nothing special about the romantic comedy Dan in Real Life. The advice columnist Dan (Steve Carell) is a lonely widower who visits his big family for the weekend with his three overprotected daughters in tow. Out alone, he meets a beguiling, friendly woman (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore. They hit it off and he gets her number. He returns to the house only to discover that the woman is his brother's new girlfriend, and she's staying right under his nose. It's a set-up that could have invited the comedian Carell to run amok, but he gives a wonderfully subtle performance as Dan, who slowly, hilariously goes nuts watching his brother fawn over his new love. Carell's put-upon everyman with an edge is perfect, and it's in his hands that the film turns into a sweet, engaging comedy for and about grown-ups. Presided over by Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney, this is the least dysfunctional family gathering you're likely to see, which is refreshing. The film manages to laugh gently with its characters and only occasionally descends into mawkishness. The conclusion is apparent from the beginning, but it's fun to watch Carell get there.