DAN IN REAL LIFE
Family Values in a Love Triangle
Starring: Steve Carell, Juliette
Binoche, Dane Cook, Dianne
Wiest, John Mahoney, Alison
Pill, Brittany Robertson,
Marlene Lawston, and Emily
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 98 minutes
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures/Buena
Vista/Walt Disney Company
Director: Peter Hedges
Executive Producer: Noah Rosen, Darlene Caamaño
Loquet and Mari Jo
Producer: Jon Shestack and Brad Epstein
Writer: Pierce Gardner and Peter
Address Comments To:Robert Iger, President/CEO
The Walt Disney Company
(Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, and Buena Vista Distribution)
Dick Cook, Chairman
The Walt Disney Studios
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
Steve Carell plays Dan Burns, a widower with three daughters who writes a local column about parenting and family issues. Ignoring objections from his two teenage daughters, Dan takes the family to Rhode Island, where the rest of their family is visiting Dan’s parents, played by Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney.
Dan’s mom advises Dan to take the afternoon to get away and go to the nearby small town. In a bookstore there, Dan meets an alluring woman named Marie, played by Juliette Binoche. She gives Dan her card, but advises him that she’s just started a romantic relationship with another man.
Back at his parents’ quaint New England house, Dan tells everyone about the woman he met. His brother, Mitch (played by Dane Cook), tells him to go ahead and pursue the woman. Everyone agrees because it has been four years since Dan’s beloved wife has died and Dan hasn’t been seeing anyone in all that time.
Of course, who should Marie’s new boyfriend be but Mitch, Dan’s brother. No matter how hard they try to cover it up, Dan and Marie cannot help but fall in love. Sadly, Mitch is also falling for Marie in a big way. This love triangle presents Dan with some complicated dilemmas regarding the family values he’s been trying to teach his daughters.
There’s a great country song by Sara Evans called “Suds in the Bucket” about an 18-year-old girl who shocks her parents when she runs away to get married. The song’s refrain says, “You can’t fence time and you can’t stop love.” These lyrics reflect what the protagonist Dan goes through in this movie. Dan’s teenage daughters are growing older and becoming interested in boys, especially the younger teenager. Meanwhile, Dan himself, when he meets Marie, discovers that he’s finally found someone he may like to marry some day. His brother, Mitch, tells Dan that “all’s fair in love and war,” but Dan knows that that sentiment is not what he’s been trying to teach his daughters. All of this makes for many funny and poignant moments. A solution to their problems finally presents itself to Dan, Mitch and Marie, but not before some pain and conflict.
As noted above, DAN IN REAL LIFE contains brief foul language and brief sexual innuendo. This content is strong enough for a caution for pre-teenagers and other moviegoers.
A bigger problem perhaps is the fact that none of the characters are guided overtly by God, Jesus Christ or the Bible. Without God, Jesus and the Bible, the concepts of family values, marriage and good parenting ultimately are meaningless. These concepts should be rooted in God, Jesus and the Bible, especially if you want a truly happy, productive and satisfying life here on Earth as well as beyond the grave. Even so, it is good to see that this movie makes a stab at considering such issues in a relatively clean, mostly (but not completely) family-friendly way.
DAN IN REAL LIFE is a delightfully offbeat romantic comedy with none of the overt sleaze that accompanies most comedies these days. There is, however, some brief foul language and sexual innuendo, but most of the movie offers plenty of clean comedy and positive moral values that parents can enjoy with their teenage and adult children. The bigger drawback probably is the lack of religious context in the movie.