Filled with charm, nice style, and a light-hearted approach to its story, Dan in Real Life isn’t a laugh out loud comedy. In fact, it’s a one-joke story about an awkward relationship that wins the audience over with its characters and direction. Steve Carell is instantly likeable in his role and salvages the jokes with his humor.
The entire movie hinges on a man falling madly in love with a woman who happens to be his brother's girlfriend. Buying into this relationship is a tough one, as Carell and Juliette Binoche have an impossible attraction after only a few hours. Past this oversight, Dan in Real Life carries a very natural tone, and its direction from Peter Hedges gives the film an art house look at times.
A happy, upbeat soundtrack aids in that style. The loaded cast that make up Carell’s family are all fine in their roles, offering support and decent one-liners. Pacing is handled well, though some scenes feel as if they go by far too quickly. Carell’s constant run-ins with local police deserve more screen time.
The growing awkwardness between Carell and Binoche as they struggle to keep their relationship inside them leads to some truly amusing moments. Dane Cook plays Carell’s brother, who has no idea his girlfriend is attracted to his sibling. The shower sequence is hilarious, and through a slickly directed scene, Binoche and Carell pull off their first argument as a couple without saying a word. Carell is quickly becoming the king of facial expressions, and he gives us a wide range here.
In the end, Dan in Real Life is a simple romantic comedy, filled with predictable outcomes and familiar situations. It’s harmless entertainment, and taken for what it is, it’s a fine way to kill 90 minutes. The actors save this one. It’s unlikely you’ll come back, but Dan in Real Life is worth at least one spin.
A soft, grainy transfer to Blu-ray nearly defeats the point of the format. Color, while strong, often veers into odd tints. Flesh tones are bothersome leaving some characters a bright orange color. Black levels vary wildly, though when they’re on, they create a wonderful contrast. The disc still manages to pull off some details during a few close-ups, but the overall presentation is lackluster.
As a dialogue-driven comedy, Dan doesn’t offer much for audio fans. There are a few small touches worth mentioning, including doors slamming shut from all angles, a crowded restaurant delivering decent immersion, and the soundtrack nicely envelopes the viewer. The audio track is serviceable and delivers when needed.
With the exception of three minutes of outtakes and deleted scenes, all features are in HD. Just Like Family is an oddly deep 'making of' in which Peter Hedges gives his story of growing up in a single parent household which helps mask the otherwise generic piece. Handmade Music has Hedges and composer Sondre Lerche discussing how the original music came to be for ten minutes.
Eleven deleted scenes offer more insight into characters (especially some of those in small roles). Along with some trailers, Peter Hedges finishes off the disc with a commentary track.
Dan pulled in a decent box office gross, almost doubling its budget. It’s a shame that a mostly clean comedy can’t draw as much as the latest gross-out fest. Maybe if this were a stronger film it could have broke a few movie-going rules.