'Dan' delivers

“Plan to be surprised, Dan writes in his column. Fans of Steve Carrell’s other movies and his television show The Office should plan to be surprised with his new film, Dan in Real Life. Dan Burns (Carrell), an advice columnist for the New Jersey Standard, is a widower and father of three girls.”

Plan to be surprised, Dan writes in his column.

Fans of Steve Carrell’s other movies and his television show The Office should plan to be surprised with his new film, Dan in Real Life.

Dan Burns (Carrell), an advice columnist for the New Jersey Standard, is a widower and father of three girls.

He tackles the daily ritual of dealing with his two teenage daughters and their social issues as well as his adolescent daughter, who wants more of her father’s attention. Dan sets out for an annual family gathering at his parents’ Rhode Island lodge, and awaits word on whether his column will be syndicated nationally.

With all this pressure, the last thing Dan expected on his trip was to fall in love. That is, until he meets a flustered, charming woman at the combination tackle and bait shop and used bookstore.

Marie (Juliette Binoche) follows Dan around the store, thinking he is a clerk at the facility, asking for a book that will help her through her current troubled relationship. Who knew the autobiography of Ghandi and the children’s book Everyone Poops would be helpful in this situation?

Marie listens to Dan talk about his life, the loss of his wife and raising his children. When she has to leave, Dan wants to talk to her again, if it is only to find out about her life story.

She gives him her number and they part ways, and Dan returns to his parents’ house to talk about the most magnificent woman he has ever met.

Dan’s brother Mitch (Dane Cook) encourages him to go after this woman, even if she is in a relationship. The next thing you know, Mitch introduces his wonderful new girlfriend, Marie.

The film has funny moments, but delves into the serious issues of relationships, parenting and the dynamic between men and women.

Dan’s oldest daughter thinks she is in love when she has only known her boyfriend for a few days; his second oldest wants to drive but Dan believes it is too dangerous on the roads; and his youngest simply wants him to be there for her.

These issues come full circle for Dan, who believes he loves Marie after only knowing her a couple of days and gets two tickets and has an accident in the same amount of time.

This is a far cry from Carrell’s and Cook’s other movies, which are generally comedies. Dan is much more of a relationship drama, with a little comedy sprinkled in.

The movie stumbles in character development, instead throwing the viewer deep into the Burns’ lives with their stories filled in much later.

Cook plays a relatively calm role compared to his more obnoxious stand-up comedy, and becomes a brilliant foil to Carrell’s congenial and sincere character. Binoche somehow manages to falter in what should be a stronger female role, mostly to keep the storyline and love triangle between her and the two Burns brothers going.

This film would be great to take a significant other to see, but probably would be best to wait for a DVD release to enjoy at home.

Rating: 3 out of 4