Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a widower, single father of 3 girls, and writer of a newspaper column about relationships and family. Since the death of his wife, he has been focused on his daughters and his career leaving no room for love. While at his family's annual vacation retreat, Dan happens to meet the mysterious and beautiful Marie at a bookstore. They talk for hours getting to know each other...actually, it was more Dan pouring out his soul. When they are parting ways, Dan asks for her number, and we find out that she is in a new relationship. She hesitates but gives him her number anyway. Dan excitedly goes back to the family cabin, rejuvinated by the possibility of new found love. It's there that Dan meets his brother's new girlfriend...who is none other than bookstore Marie. They keep their meeting and feelings a secret as the tension of Dan seeing his brother with the woman of his dreams builds. This results in clandestine shower conversations, erotic family football tackles, tearful talent show performances, an awkward dance-off, and overall passive/aggressive acting out by Dan. It all becomes too much for the sensitive Marie so she breaks up with the brother and leaves. She doesn't make it far before she calls Dan. They meet at a bowling alley and express their love for each other with each goofy roll of the ball. For some reason Dan's family shows up right as they are passionately kissing in front of the pins. The family is shocked by what they have seen, and of course his brother punches him in THE FACE. But true love wins out and Dan ends up with Marie...cue wedding reception as the credits roll. There was also the relationship between Dan and his girls and a job interview thrown in there as well.
I thought Dan in Real Life was ok. Steve Carell gave a strong performance, and I think he is always sincere, likable and funny. The problems I had were with the interaction of the family and how quickly Dan fell for Marie. I always have a hard time getting into a movie when two people meet, and within the first 10 minutes of laying eyes on each other, they are ready to completely rearrange their lives or even die for each other. Maybe it is the only way to tell a story in two hours and maybe it works if the chemistry between the two characters is just right...but I usually don't care if they end up together or not. That was the case here. As for the family, they just got along too well. I mean, we saw them play football, have a talent show, make several meals together, play charades, have a crossword puzzle race, and countless heartfelt talks. It just seemed a little too much. I don't know of any family that acts like that. I'm sure they exist and maybe everyone I know is in the minority.
There was nothing really wrong with Dan in Real Life, but there was nothing great about it either. But it did make me want a stack of pancakes.