Virtual Voices

Dan in Real Life

Entertainment

When widower Dan Burns meets his soulmate in a bookstore, she asks him to help her find a funny book - the kind of funny that sneaks up on you, "human funny."

The description fits "Dan in Real Life" (rated PG-13 for innuendo), a movie that gets its humor from the awkwardness of real life: a noisy and invasive family, a teenage daughter who insists she's in love with a boy she's known for three days, and a guy who accidentally falls for his brother's girlfriend. Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is an advice columnist raising three daughters alone. He's steady to the point of tedium, careful to the point of compulsion, an exemplary father but a "bad dad" who finds it hard to let go. His family volubly wonders if Dan can love again.

Dan finds that he can when he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche), only to find that she is dating his brother, Mitch (Dane Cook). Dan won't steal his brother's girlfriend, but he can't help making snide references to Mitch's past love life and physical contact when the family plays football. When his loyalty to Mitch clashes with his love for Marie, he finds it hard to live out the advice he gives in his column: Put family first.

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"Dan in Real Life" tends towards sappy. It inspires warm feelings more than it provokes thought, but that's not always bad. Dan's daughter's boyfriend says love is not a feeling but an ability. The movie's appeal lies in its gentle, human humor and its portrayal of a family that is able to love, even when family ties chafe.

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