Dan in Real Life
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this Steve Carell comedy is fairly tame overall, it does include some violence, innuendo, and other iffy behavior (Dan and Marie share a shower, they lie to Dan's family, and Dan flirts with Marie inappropriately in front of his whole family). Dan also gets a black eye and a broken nose and is in a minor car accident. A mother's death is mentioned, and a teenager lies to her father about dating a boy (he sneaks up to make out with her on the family vacation). One character makes jokes about "self-love" and "unclogging the pipes," which may lead tweens to ask about sex and masturbation. Language includes one use of "f--k."
What's the story?
Four years after his beloved wife's death, newspaper columnist Dan (Steve Carell) is devoted to their three daughters, but the teen girls are quickly moving out of his control. Cara (Brittany Robertson) is in love for the first time and lies to her father about it, sneaking off to smooch her new fella. Parent-ified Jane (Alison Pill) is 17 and ready to drive, and Lilly (Marlene Lawston) is sick of being coddled. As Dan's father (John Mahoney) aptly remarks when Dan says his children hate him, "You must be doing something right." After arriving at his parents' home for a mythically happy family reunion, Dan meets and falls for Marie (Juliette Binoche). The problem? She's already spoken for -- by Dan's hyper, self-involved brother, Mitch (Dane Cook). Will Dan be able to keep his feelings to himself?
Is it any good?
It may not exactly be real life, but Dan in Real Life is a fun way to spend two hours with your family. This a romantic comedy convinced that misery and self-abdication are the true signs of love; it's a typical movie message, but maybe not a good one for teens who already make a habit of dramatic suffering. So it's a good thing the movie is well-done and warm-hearted. Yes, it's predictable and unrealistic, but it aims for a kind of "human comedy," as Marie announces on first meeting Dan. The film does have other types of funny as well, including guffaw-worthy moments mostly surrounding some great lines your kids may end up repeating back to you.
Director Peter Hedges uses his cast to great effect: Cook stays occupied with outlandish songs and aerobics routines, and Carell hams it up dancing and gets in a few fun one-liners, too. The young actors all pull their own weight, and Mahoney and the renowned Dianne Wiest provide the perfect backdrop to the film as Dan's content parents.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the difference between how love is portrayed in movies and how it is in real life. Why do you think so many movies pair depression and misery with love? Is it funny to watch romantic movies like that? Why or why not? How fun do you think it would be to actually be in a relationship like that? In this movie, Dan and Marie lie about their attraction and end up hurting a lot of people. Remind kids that anyone you have to hide or lie to your family about probably isn't the right person for you.