Heartwarming fiction speaks real-life truth

Since Lars and the Real Girl is the sweetest movie of the year, Dan in Real Life can safely be called the happiest, feel-good movie of 2007.

Remember how the end of Little Miss Sunshine and Hitch brought feelings of self-consciousness, for fear of potential Amélies in the theater looking back at us to see our gleeful, smiling faces?

Dan in Real Life has similar good vibrations.

Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a newspaper advice columnist, an author, a widower, father of three girls and a good man. Annually, Dan’s extended family gathers at a cabin in Rhode Island.

While visiting the New England town, the lonely bachelor meets Annie (Juliette Binoche), the perfect woman. But it turns out that Dan’s brother, Mitch (Dane Cook), is already dating Dan’s new dream girl.

Dan in Real Life is fun because Dan and Annie’s affinity for each other is a secret. And Dan is torn between being a loyal brother and pursuing such an evident "keeper."

What makes this comedy particularly enjoyable is that we are genuinely intrigued by not knowing how this mess could ever be untangled. We have suspicions, sure, but resolution seems impossible.

The dynamics and exchanges among the family members are humorous, making Dan in Real Life reminiscent of The Family Stone (2005), which is another "bring the new gal to meet the whole fam" farce.

There’s something about this film’s quality and substance that places it higher than a typical, hollow, romantic comedy. It almost feels like a tame Wes Anderson project or a Sundance indie film.

Dan in Real Life has some pitch-perfect moments of playful revenge, genuine humor and touching sincerity.

There’s even a brief spell where Steve Carell gets to evoke the obnoxiousness of his Office persona, Michael Scott.
Dan in Real Life is delightful, quaint and a great option for a date movie.

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