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MOVIEGOER REVIEW:  DAN IN REAL LIFE

About this time every year a film about a single father trying to raise his children and find love comes to the screen.  This year that film is "Dan in Real Life" starring Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche.  Like 2005's "The Family Stone," Dan has a wonderfully engaged and large family that loves him.  They all come together (all 300 of them, it seems) for a weekend in a secluded New England town.  While he's out picking up the papers one morning, Dan stumbles upon a beautiful woman in a bookstore (Binoche) and he's immediately taken to her.  So he's incredibly surprised when she shows up at the house, the girlfriend of his brother played with a mountain of cheese by Dane Cook.  It's awkward, of course, and Dan starts acting childish to the point that even his youngest daughter takes notice.  But because this is a feel-good film, Dan eventually gets the girl.  Yay! 

Carell, a fine and funny actor, is more immature "40 Year Old Virgin" than tormented, heartbroken man - a role he finely played in last year's "Little Miss Sunshine."  And that doesn't make any sense.  His fellow cast members, including Dianne Weist (a two-time Oscar winner), John Mahoney, Alison Pill, Amy Ryan (who kills in "Gone Baby Gone") and Emily Blunt (a delight in "The Jane Austen Book Club") all seem to be unused and out of place.  It's a shame, because in 2003 director Peter Hedges made a fine, small film called "Pieces of April" with a similarly impressive cast.  I wish that effort had been replicated here.


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