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(Seen on 5/20/08) I was fairly stoked to see this film. It had received good reviews and I like Steve Carrell as an actor. I was expecting to see to a smart, well made romantic dramedy. The film is almost there, it has a lot of the right ingredients, but ultimately, it never clicked for me. Too much of the film felt false, so I couldn't buy into this slightly ridiculous story.

Carrell is Dan Burns, an advice columnist, with three daughters and a dead wife. It's time for the Burns family reunion, so he throws his daughters in the car and heads out to the Rhode Island coast to his parents picture perfect home. On a trip into town, he meets-cute with a beautiful woman in a book store. When she asks him to help find her some books, he pretends to work there and helps her find some books. I appreciated that the rouse didn't blow up in his face, like so many films, but instead he plays it off, and the two have a wonderful talk, where he tells her all about his life. Marie is the first woman he's met, that's truly interested him since his wife died a few years before. Despite the obvious connection, she suddenly decides to take off. Before she drives away, Dan gets up the courage to ask her out and that's when she tells him she's already seeing someone.

This being a predictable romantic comedy, they meet up a short while later at Dan's parent's house, where he discovers his younger, irresponsible brother is dating her. This leads to many awkward moments between Dan, Marie and the rest of the family. There are a number of ridiculous movie-only moments; such as Dan and Marie ending up in the shower together, while Dan's oldest daughter is having a heart-to-heart with Marie. So much of film doesn't feel right, this is an only-in-the-movies kind of family; the whole weekend, they're constantly doing something like playing backyard football, practicing yoga together, or having a family talent show. This family is too picture perfect. Diane Wiest and John Mahoney, who've played parents in a combined 612 movies, once again show up as the all knowing, sweet as pie mom and dad, who always have exactly the right thing to say.

The movie is fairly entertaining, it is full of great actors who take these unreal situations and sell them to the best of their abilities. Carrell is his usual awkwardly-charming, hilarious self. Juliette Binoche doesn't have to stretch too much to be the perfect woman, she's beautiful and enchanting. Dane Cook, who plays younger brother Mitch, is the only one I really didn't like in the film; I've never bought him as an actor and proves again he doesn't have the chops. Writer/director Peter Hedges, has created a film that's utterly predictable, where the jokes are telegraphed from way off, with the whole thing playing a bit too on the nose. Dan in Real Life doesn't offer a single unique moment, but the caliber of the actors makes the film works as a cliche' riddled only in movie-land type fashion. - Grade: C+

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