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  Publicity Stills of "Dan In Real Life"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Romance/Comedy
Director: Peter Hedges
Cast: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://daninreallife.movies.go.com

Opening Day: 10 January 2008



Advice columnist Dan Burns is an expert on relationships, but somehow struggles to succeed as a brother, a son and a single parent.

Movie Review:

Mention the name of a certain actor called Adam Sandler, and people think of slapstick comedies and coarse toilet jokes. But all it takes is one movie like Punch Drunk Love (2002) for us to realize that the guy can do more than just comedy. Mention the name of another actor called Steve Carell, and people think of the poor lad having his chest hair waxed off in The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and birds pooping on his head in Ewan Almighty (2007).

And here it is, a film that will have people realizing that the Saturday Night Live host can be a wonderful actor in dramas as well.

Directed by Peter Hedges (Pieces of April), this 98-minute dramedy tells the story of Dan Burns, a widower who works aunt agony columnist and devotes his life to taking care of his three daughters. When a visit to his parents’ home for an annual reunion turns into a life-changing experience, he realizes that he isn’t an expert when it comes to being a good father, a good son and a good brother at the same time; and managing relationships isn’t that easy at all.

The show clearly belongs to Carell, who plays the titular character with his signature deadpan expressions and quote-worthy one-liners. The extra punch the funnyman packs into his role this time round is the affecting charm which makes it hard for you not to empathize with Dan. Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Paris Je T’aime) plays a woman Dan meets at a bookstore and falls in love with. The problem is, she is her brother’s girlfriend, and the two have to work out their awkward connection. The sweet chemistry between the French actress and the comedian is a pleasant surprise that will have you smiling. Also, watch out for Dane “Good Luck Chuck” Cook, who plays Dan’s brother. The scene where the two brothers perform a duet at the family reunion is so heartwarming; you may begin reflecting on your own relationship with your siblings.

The script co-written by the director himself and Pierce Gardner is evidently an attempt to make the movie sentimental enough for the viewers to gush at its syrupy setups, but it works. Hedges, whose writing credits include About a Boy (2002) and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), knows how to capture the hearts of his audiences with predictable but emotionally uplifting plots. You will want to cheer on Dan, after all the unfortunate ordeals he has gone through. In fact, you may even wish you were Dan yourself.

The accessible movie also effectively uses music written by guitarist-singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche (he has a cameo at the end of the movie). A fan of the Norwegian, director Hedges has nicely incorporated many of his songs into the picture. Listen out for songs like the appropriately-titled “I’ll be OK” and “My Hands are Shaking” during some of the key scenes in the movie. The pleasing music may also make you wish that it’s the soundtrack of your life.

Movie Rating:

(The comedy is as wonderful as life itself)

Review by John Li


. Evan Almighty (2007)

. Paris Je Taime (2006)

. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

. The Family Stone (2005)

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