‘Dan’ could use some more life


Steve Carell was in dire need of a hit. After derailing with this past summer’s “Evan Almighty,” trying to hold onto his former glory as a Daily Show alumus and with his do-no-wrong award winning series The Office, he desperately needed to bounce back.

While his new film, “Dan in Real Life,” isn’t as abysmally bad as “Evan,” it barely keeps Carell’s momentum from getting back on track.

Directed by Peter Hedges, who wrote the screenplay for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” before his directorial debut “Pieces of April,” the film casts Carell as a widower with three daughters who writes a family advice column that shares the film’s name. While attending his family’s annual get-together, he falls for a girl, played by Academy Award-winner Juliette Binoche, in a bookstore, only to find out later that she’s seeing his brother, played by Dane Cook.

Cook’s presence might lead some expecting the film to be an energetic farce, but, surprisingly, it ends up being incredibly subdued, dare I say, sweet. Carell’s dry portrayal is complemented by his knack for subtle humor, while even Cook manages to calm down to turn in a decent sympathetic performance.

Unfortunately, despite all the factors being in place along with a comedic talent like Carell, the movie never rises above its blandness. The chemistry between Carell and Binoche feels slightly forced, and their initial meeting in the bookstore falls flat after trying to be too cute and witty. Everything seems like it should be funny, yet good laughs are infrequent.

In its attempt to be an indie-flavored family comedy, the film becomes painfully mediocre and so predictable that it’s easy to leave with 15 minutes left and know exactly how it ends. Still, Carell shows that there’s still plenty of life left in him.

Stars: 2 out of 4 stars

Rene Basulto may be contacted at r.basulto@umiami.edu.