Carell deals with ‘Real Life’

Mikhail Chernyavsky

It is often hard to balance laugh-out-loud comedy with serious and meaningful drama without one outweighing the other. However, in his directorial follow-up to “Pieces of April,” Peter Hedges has a perfect balance in “Dan In Real Life” as he exposes how family can bring us serenity while driving us to complete insanity.

Throw together a bizarre love triangle involving two brothers with a family reunion and you have “Dan In Real Life.”

This movie has to be one of the cheesiest, mushiest, and most cliché films I have seen in a long time, but it also has to be one of the best.

Steve Carell does not step too far out of his comedic comfort zone in the role of Dan, but he does show his growth and worth as a film actor. Carell brings with him his unique comedic charm that audiences have come to love on “The Daily Show” and “The Office.” He plays an overbearing father who fears that letting go of his children will mean their death. No matter whether male or female, anyone who has ever been a son or daughter can share in the annoyance that it is to have parents who just seem to care too much about their children’s well-being.

At times the film seems to have a very sitcom-feel to it. What happens when you put three different sisters, the smart one, the love-sick puppy, and the mature one, under one roof with a widowed husband? Well, you are just two uncles short of a “Full House” episode. That is of course until you get the whole family under one roof for a reunion.

Next, add a new love into the mix, Oscar winner Juliette Binoche. She plays Marie, the girl in the bookstore Dan falls for after a morning conversation. Now here is the catch, Marie is the new girlfriend of Dan’s brother, Mitch, played by Dane Cook. This almost seems like it could be a season of “How I Met Your Mom.”

Cook does a surprisingly delightful job as he too steps away from the slapstick comedy once again. Although Cook is not his usual adrenaline-pumping self, he is very enjoyable as a mellowed-out brother. Cook also sheds light on his musical career as he breaks out into a comedic song.

Norwegian indie rocker Sondre Lerche’s music is very complimentary to the flow of the film. His upbeat music gives a boost to the melodrama of the film.

It is hard to hate the hopeless romanticism that the film embodies. What makes this film work is that you cannot help but feel for Carell’s character. You want him to be triumphant even if this situational love triangle seems like it can only end in a family disaster.

All clichés derive from a common truth; this is what makes the film real. Audiences can relate to at least one aspect of the film. There is a truth to Dan’s longing to find love. There is a truth to being lovesick. There is a truth to being or having overbearing parents, no matter how old we may get.

“Dan In Real Life” is a real family movie that both parents and children should see together.

Mikhail Chernyavsky can be reached at [email protected]