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IN SHORT: Romance, not comedy. Suck it up, boys . . . [Rated PG-13 for some innuendo.]
There are only three combinations of the pairiing of Comedy and Romance. You can go heavy on the Romance and punctuate with comedy. You can go heavy on the Comedy and toss the romance in as a sublot that makes everyone happy in Act Three. Or you can shoot for the moon, so to speak, and try to find that almost impossible to pull off perfect balance of Romance and Comedy. Dan in Real Life . . .
Sorry, guys. Dane Cook and Steve Carrell may be great comedians (duh) but they're also accomplished on the acting side and that's what you get in this heavy duty -- we should have capitalized that -- femme skewing rom-com. Not the kind of flick to see in an audience of 80% males expecting more comedy but that's the way our screening rolled. And, seriously, five or six heavy duty belly laughs spread over the just under two hours running time is not enough to offset the heavy duty-ness of the romantic storyline.
That story begins with a a family advice writing, a newspaper columnist named Dan Burns (Steve Carrell). Dan's wife died four years earlier and he's been raising his three daughters (Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston) who range from about 10 to nothing but trouble 17, solo. Prior to heading off for a family weekend, Dan stops off in a local bookshop where he is mistaken for an employee by the lovely French born Anne-Marie (Juliet Binoche). Sparks fly. They go for coffee. And while Dan talks for, like, hours, he gets little out of Anne-Marie than a phone number and a polite "not looking." Such is life.
So, off goes the Dan's clan to reunite with the grandparents and uncles and aunts at the annual family weekend. There, brother Mitch (Dane Cook) introduces all to the (seriously, now) Love of Life.
Mitch is head over heels about "Annie". Dan already knows, just from a couple of hours in a coffee shop talking, that "Annie" she prefers "Marie". He also knows, as does she, that there is nothing either can do about the circumstances. Marie doesn't want to wreck the relationship -- this is a very literate, inteligent, well written and conceived script, folks -- but Attraction is Attraction. And a weekend is a long time.
The parental units (Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney) can sense there is some kind of trouble, but assume that Dan has started to reach the post-mourning period where he might think about dating. So they set him up with the only good set of jokes in the script, so we won't waste it. The script is too well made to cut its legs out like that. But after an hour, not having brought a date, we wanted to be somewhere else.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dan in Real Life , he would have paid . . .
One Belly Laugh (they're really good) every twenty minutes may be realistic in a film universe but that doesn't make Dan in Real Life a comedy. It is the "classic" dateflick. The women will rave (as did the femme publicists -- way more than usual). The guys will sit. Laugh when it comes. Pray for the end.
28 Weeks Later
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