Dan in Real Life: Movie Review from My Netflix Queue

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Somewhere in between Little Miss Sunshine and one of my all-time favorite films, Home for the Holidays, you’ll find Dan in Real Life: a plunky little romantic comedy that makes great use of star Steve Carell’s charming awkwardness.

Dan is a widower who takes his three headstrong daughters to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Rhode Island. The sprawling, rambunctious family inhabits one of those Kennedy-esque weathered coastal homes that probably costs in the upwards of $15 million, even though the family lounges around in flannel and drives beat-up cars. Hmmm.

Dan’s family and the cozy house provide the backdrop for the mixed-up love plot of the film in which Dan meets a love interest, Marie, played by Juliette Binoche, at a bookstore in town, only to discover later that she is the girlfriend of his rowdy brother, Mitch.

And here’s where things turn ugly. Because, you see, Mitch is played, incapably, by comedian Dane Cook. Notice I said “comedian” not “actor,” because there are many things Dane Cook is (alcohol-soaked, off-putting and frat-boyish to name a few) but “actor” is not one of them. Watching this bloated boob paw at the lovely Juliette Binoche was like watching a rottweiler holding a kitten in its mouth. As if the French didn’t already have enough reasons to hate us.

In spite of the horrible casting of Dane Cook and a few sitcom-style plot turns, the film still captures that magic quality of off-beat humanity. Steve Carell’s daughter screaming “You are a murderer of love!” is one of the funniest moments I’ve seen in any film in a long time and you can’t help but be charmed by Carell’s awkward vulnerability. And every time Dan’s parents, played by John Mahoney and Dianne Weist, came onto the screen, you wanted to sit between them with an afghan and a mug of cocoa. They literally warmed the screen with their very presence.

And then that horse’s ass Dane Cook would stumble into the scene and with one nasaly word, all the magic would disappear. Please, Hollywood, stop casting non-actors into otherwise good films. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they’re still playing Mariah Carey’s Glitter on the first floor of hell. Let’s end it there.

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