Thursday, January 17, 2008

Review: Dan In Real Life

The Short: It's a poor attempt at light family entertainment. Not funny enough to be a comedy, and not dramatic enough to be even a half-decent drama. After Evan Almighty, it's another flop for Carell.

The Long: The story of Dan In Real Life is straight out of TV Movie-land: a widowed father is trying to cope with his 3 daughters (each at a different stage in life), his work and his lack of a love-life. They all pile into a car and head off to a family gathering at a quaint and quiet seaside town that always seems to be overcast. While off buying papers Steve Carell's character meets a woman whom he completely falls for, only to find out that it's his brother's new girlfriend.

While sometimes amusing, the film never really gets out of 1st gear and seems to happily plod along in it's own world, leaving the audience behind to wonder when they'll all cop-on and give us something interesting to watch. The family at the centre of the story are incredibly annoying with their "family time" games and group exercise sessions in the mornings. Their behavior is so safe (well, it is a PG rated film), mundane, oh-so-cutesy and sugar loaded that you may just develop diabetes from looking at them.
Carell is fine in his role, but is given very little to work with. The same can be said for the rest of the roles, except Dane Cook who turns in another insipid and uninspiring performance.

The writing behind the story is the main reason Dan In Real Life fails. The story takes many turns in the wrong direction, throwing characters into positions where they really shouldn't be and relying on the audience to buy in to these quirks and to ignore the implausibility of it all. It tries so hard to be light hearted and appealing that it forgets to properly engage us and leaves the viewer feeling cheated, having sat through 90 minutes of fakery and lies. In essence, the film is like a condescending pat on the head from an annoying relative.

Rating: * * (2 Stars)

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