When I first saw the trailer for Dan in Real Life I, like others, couldn't help but make Little Miss Sunshine comparsions. It appeared to deal with dysfunctional families, it was a comedy drama, it had Steve Carell in it. After seeing the film a fairer comparison is Garden State meets Meet the Parents. The end result sits somewhere just beneath both in terms of success but will keep a smile on your face and may give you a few laugh out loud moments before the end.
The titular Dan, is a widower (take note P.S I Love You, this is how you deal with the loss of a loved one) looking after his three ever changing daughters. Dan meets and wooes Marie (Juliette Binoche) in one of those ridiculously amazing meetings that mainly happen in Woody Allen films. Sadly for Dan, Marie has just started dating his brother Mitch (Dane Cook). Dan only discovers this when trapped in a holiday retreat with his entire family. The family, by the way, are the most twee family in the world. Excercising together, engaging in heated crossword competitions, etc. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, its a lovely ideal to aim for but I'm pretty sure the title mentions Real Life. Maybe its an American thing.
Steve Carell is always watchable and continues that here. Even after the cinematic diarrhoea that was Evan Almighty I don't remember anyone coming out and saying how awful he was. When Dan's jealousy bubbles, Steve plays it with just the right amount of bitterness and sadness. Juliette Binoche does a great job with a very rare commodity, a well written female role. However the rest of the cast is let down by poor characterisation. This is typified by Emily Blunts afterthought of a role. As soon as she turns up, you know how she will fit perfectly into the happy ending.
And that may be the biggest let down of the film, an ending where everything is wrapped up so neatly. It may have even been ignored had it not been for the 'happily ever after' credits. You know the ones where people dance around in wedding dresses. Credits for those people who need closure like diabetics need insulin. A fitting end to the review then a reference to a dangerous level of sweetness.