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Dan in Real Life

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for some innuendo

Reviewed by: Patty Moliterno

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romance, Comedy, Drama
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 26, 2007 (wide)
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

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Featuring: Steve Carell
Juliette BinocheDr. Ouelet

Dane Cook
Dianne Wiest
See all »
Director: Peter Hedges—“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “About a Boy,” “Pieces of April
Producer: Darlene Caamano, Dianne Dreyer, Brad Epstein, Noah Rosen, Jonathan Shestack
Distributor: Focus Features

“Something’s happening to Dan. It’s confusing. It’s awkward. It’s family.”

Without anyone telling the audience that Dan Burns is lonely, it is easy to see. Dan (Steve Carell) is in an empty bed. He wakes up and begins his day—making breakfast, making lunches, washing clothes, working from home. He has been a widow for 4 years, and his life revolves around his 3 daughters and his job as a parenting advice columnist.

However, Dan seems to have trouble with his own family. His oldest daughter Jane is upset with him because he won’t let her drive; Cara is in love, and dad just doesn’t understand her or her life; and Lilly, the youngest daughter, needs a mom around.

When Dan and his daughters go to visit his parents for the annual fall family get together, he meets a woman who takes his breath away. He opens up to Marie (Juliette BinocheDr. Ouelet
) and tells her everything about himself. He tells his family that he has met a woman, and everyone is excited for him, and then Dan discovers Marie is dating his younger brother Mitch (Dane Cook). Dan and Marie keep their meeting a secret from the whole family, and for the rest of the movie, Dan acts crazy because he is torn between his attraction to this woman and his love for his brother.

LANGUAGE: The language was extremely mild for a PG-13 movie. One d-mn, misusing God’s name twice and some songs played have mild language. There is a reference to self love and uncorking the bottle when talking about Dan’s pent up sexual urges. Cara, who is 14, says that her boyfriend has said he wants to wait to have sex.

OTHER OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT: Dan’s daughters are disrespectful toward him. He takes care of them, but we never see them helping out. They are selfish and rude most of the time. Cara, who is often times overemotional, calls her father a loser.

Cara has sweatpants on with the words “You Wish” across the buttocks. After exercising, Marie and Mitch do stretching exercises in a provocative manner. While playing football, Dan tackles Marie, and they stay there a little too long. Dan is standing in the shower with clothes on when Marie is undressing, and you see a brief flash of the side of her breast. Marie gets in the shower with fully clothed Dan. In several scenes, Marie has a low cut top on. Several times women’s cleavage is exposed. There is also a scene with provocative dancing.

Dan gets 2 tickets for running stop signs and hits a police car. Dan also gets punched by Mitch.

This is a family that laughs, fights, plays and forgives. They have fun together and share many happy moments. They share a special bond, and it is because of this that Mitch can forgive his brother. This movie also shows that actions have consequences. When Dan misbehaves at dinner, his mother makes him wash dishes alone. After 2 speeding tickets and hitting a police car, Dan has to forfeit his license. He grounds his daughter for disobeying.

Dan clearly wants what his brother has. He is lusting after a woman that is already taken. However, that is what makes this movie so believable. I rarely read what critics have to say before I see a movie, but I did read that this was not a believable storyline. I beg to differ. When you come from a large family, there is bound to be 2 people who like the same person at some time. This movie appears very human. Dan appears very human. Sometimes he says the wrong thing; sometimes he does the wrong thing. He is just one person trying to get through life.

However, this movie is devoid of any references to God, and while we may try to give advice and seek advice from worldly sources, the best advice comes from the Bible. As I watched this movie, I kept thinking about all the times I get “crazy” because of something I want, or anxious because I don’t know how things will turn out. However, God does. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

While I enjoyed watching this movie and was entertained, I feel the mark of a truly good movie is if it made me think afterwards. I continue to ponder even now as I write. Would things have happened differently if Dan and Marie hadn’t kept their meeting a secret? What advice would I give to someone in a similar situation?

I would recommend this movie for teens and adults. Go and laugh at the silly parts and enjoy yourself. Afterwards, talk about the choices Dan made. Why were his actions wrong? How would you do things differently? What would God want from us in a similar situation?

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—This film is highly enjoyable on many fronts. It is not for the cynics. It is not for the critical of heart. Furthermore, if you do NOT want to laugh, feel good, have some consolation if you feel down and out, and be generally uplifted, then do not go see this movie.
My Ratings: Good / 3½
Chris Monroe, age 34
Positive—I agree with your reviewer’s comments. I thoroughly enjoyed this pleasant movie about a kind and caring single dad who falls for a very attractive and rather unusual woman, who turns out to be his brother’s new girlfriend. I guess this is a romantic comedy, and I did laugh a lot at the romantic predicaments and themes. However, it is also a fairly sober look at parenting of teenage girls in this immoral day and age. Dan does his best to train his daughters to be moral and self-respecting. He is a strict father, knowing that his strictness will make him unpopular with his girls. But that is the serious message of this movie, I think. It also deals with the complexity of sexual attraction and deciding when a romantic relationship actually becomes a love relationship. God bless Steve Carell for giving us another fairly clean movie (see also “Evan Almighty”). In Hollywood, that is not easy. This is a good movie, and I highly recommend it for teens and parents alike.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
Positive—I took my 15 year old daughter to see this on opening night, and we both really enjoyed it. Many times we found ourselves laughing out loud with others in the audience. As a parent, I could relate to the father Dan wanting to protect his girls from interested teen boys. My daughter found the teenage girl her age in the film “over the top,” but funny. This movie values families, and we especially enjoyed seeing an extended family having a fun time together during a weekend reunion. As my husband’s family is large and noisy, we could relate to a houseful of interesting relatives, and the games and laughter that is part of our gatherings. Nothing offensive, save one small reference to “self love” that I am sure went over my daughter’s head. You really do care for the main character, Dan, as he finds new love after mourning the death of his wife four years earlier. It was great being able to share a movie with my daughter that we both liked, and that is clean, funny, and heartwarming. Go see this!
My Ratings: Good / 4
Lynn, age 44
Positive—This is one of the best movies in the world! It is cute and funny. I think that it would be a good movie for kids, teens, and parents!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
Micky, age 23
Positive—It is nice to view a show from Hollywood that doesn’t go over the edge.

The main character held to his values. It was tastefully done. A touch of sexual aerobics might be compromising. Take the movie as a whole and the point of the show and how it all tied together at the end, it was wholesome to me. I enjoyed the closeness and the interaction of the family. A sassy teen is rebuked. Not a lot of intense drama or excessive weird family members. Enjoyable under currents and tension between characters with not a lot of dialog. A shower scene was made without excessive nudity. The shots were head shots. I loved the complexity of the show, and how situations were handled. It might be boring to some for its lacks of violence, the sex, the hate, the evil that most worldly shows display. It is not a mindless comedy. The movie is a fair balance, with a touch of witty humor. Carell’s character is calmer from the past roles he has played. He’s rather quiet, trying to do his best, as a single dad, for his family. My husband, my 14 year old enjoyed it. It will make you smile.
My Ratings: Good / 5
Louise, age 47
Positive—“Dan in Real Life” is finally a movie that I feel comfortably taking all of my family to see together and know that everyone, including the 18 year olds and my husband, will have a great laugh. Steve Carell’s facial expressions make it all worth while. My husband and I, along with our 11 year old, 14 year old and 16 year old boys went together to see the movie. Right from the start, our teenage boys started to smile.

The situations with Steve Carell’s children in the movie are exactly like what we go through on a regular basis with our children. Even the scene where he is making peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and honey and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made our boys laugh because we do the same thing everyday. Our children complain that they do not have any fun, and I believe this movie tells some of the sacrifice that parents go through for their children. Steve Carell is loyal to his family, he doesn’t complain when they give him the worst room, he doesn’t complain when he is the only one with no companion, he tries to entertain the younger children, he sets boundaries with his daughters, and he allows his family to give him advice and honors his parents. See all »
My Ratings: Good / 4½
Theresa Millay, age 48
Positive—Entertaining and funny. My wife and I didn’t expect much but ended up having a really good time. This was a laugh-out-loud comedy that the whole audience seemed to enjoy. Steve Carell provided many comic moments, yet there was still a more serious and sentimental side to the story. Also pleasing was the lack of offensive content for a change. Overall, this was a clean movie that both teens and adults could enjoy. There was an emphasis on family. They should make more movies like this one. Recommended.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
Todd Adams, age 40
Positive—Having been incredibly disappointed by a string of recently viewed films, I found myself weary of hoping for nothing remotely decent with this one. Sure, the trailer was charming, but so had the other trailers been… I was so incredibly surprised. Not only is this a sweet, poignantly touching film—but I sat there afterward trying to remember what had been so horrible that it warranted a PG-13 rating. I finally gathered it must have been language (though not much) and content… Really, this is a great film! A refreshing movie after a lot of junk that’s been in the theaters for so long now! A movie which promotes the sort of things we should be thinking about… (i.e.: family, loyalty, self respect, etc…)
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
Misty Wagner, age 31
Positive—My husband and I were disappointed with some of the innuendos and comments made through the film as well as the dancing scene in the bar, although watching Dan dance was so hysterical that it helped take our focus off of that. The shower scene, the exercise moves, and some of the family talk in the laundry room were inappropriate from a christian standpoint. We were disappointed in Dan when he chose to run off with Marie because we felt he betrayed his brother’s trust, but he definitely paid the consequences for that and then some. Dan was just so likeable, sincere, and funny that it made it easy to overlook some of this. He really was just an innocent guy trying to do good and just happened to fall in love with the same girl as his brother. It was nice to see how the brothers respected each other through the whole movie and how the family really loved and supported each other and worked through things quite well. They were very open with each other and forgiving. The movie was definitely somewhat offensive to us as christians but there was also a lot of innocence and good humor mixed in. There was a lot of laughter from the audience throughout the entire movie. We went away from this movie feeling good.
My Ratings: Average / 5
Cindy, age 47
Positive—I laughed tears streaming laughing. I felt sorry for and I loved the human nature of “Dan.” I also felt like this could happen, and when it came to raising girls probably will happen. Good movie.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
Kelly, age 47
Positive—This film was enjoyable due to the incredible job done by the actors, the awkward situations that were rampant throughout the entire film and most of all, how true it was to real life. The title was very fitting for the film. While the situations in the film may have been a bit far fetched, they weren’t far enough to where you couldn’t see them happening in real life. The story of family and love is one of the better choices to make when selecting the film to see. Not only is this film humorous and fairly clean, it is also a “heart warming” feature film that is enjoyable on many levels. Two thumbs up.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
Daniel Robison, age 19
Positive—This is an utterly delightful comedy for those, like me, who are sentimental old things when it comes to love. Dan (Steve Carell) is an advice columnist, a widower with three girls, two of whom are going through the “difficult” teenage phase. Visiting his parents for Thanksgiving, Dan meets the girl of his dreams (Juliette BinocheDr. Ouelet
) in a bookstore, and they fall in love. The problem is she turns out to be his brother’s new girlfriend. The other problem is that they are staying in the same family home over Thanksgiving so they can’t avoid each other. All of which leads to some very tense comic moments as they work out their embarrassment, like two birds trapped in a cage. Of course, all comes right in the end, but not after a rollercoaster emotional ride on the way.

Aided by a witty script and some fine acting, this film succeeds in just about everything it sets out to do. Critics have pointed out that things in real life don’t work out as nicely as this, but who always wants real life in a movie anyway? This is a real, enjoyable cinematic treat, a bit of light relief after the pretentious tedium of films like “I am Legend.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Ken Edwards, age 60, United Kingdom
Neutral—As far as humor goes, the movie was full of funny scenes that keep you laughing, but the shallow presentation of what love is and how “chemistry” seems to be the deciding factor, was typical for a Hollywood film that really doesn’t seek to teach and or reinforce healthy biblical values. While attraction is a valid aspect of the bonding that occurs as two people begin the move towards marriage (thankfully the movie ends with a ceremony of marriage) it would seem that once again, the chemistry is what won the day with the producers and with a public that is given to full expression of carnal freedoms. How insidious is the messages in contemporary film that would make shallow the precious gift of courtship and instead substitute a quickie instead.
My Ratings: Average / 4
Jay, age 48
Neutral—Dan Burns is an early 40’s widower with three gals ages 10-17. He is an advice columnist for a local paper and a full-time parent at home. He makes the kids lunches, drives them to school, and faithfully picks them up afterwards. The youngest girl is sweet and innocent, a good child who loves her father. The middle gal is a young teenager in the throes of youthful infatuations and simultaneously adolescence. In other words, she is very temperamental. There is only ONE scene where she is NOT rude, hostile, and downright insulting to her father. I do not like her character. Originally I chalked her up to just being a brat, which she is, but upon further reflection I realize her behavior is largely affected by the stage of growth she’s in. This is reaffirmed by the stark contrast set by her younger and older sisters who are perfectly calm and respectful of their father. The oldest gal is 17 and eager to drive. Dad is protective and naturally worries about her in today’s traffic, so she is relegated to the backseat until the very end of the movie. See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Jacob Keenum, age 21
Neutral—My husband and I rented this movie without knowing anything about the premise of the movie. While we enjoyed the acting and laughed at a lot of parts, a lot of it was too much for me to take and actually quite frustrating. Something that I “enjoyed” about the movie was just how “real” Dan was, at least. I related to him and his being the “outcast” throughout the entire movie, but it also was very depressing. I cried several times because I’ve known exactly how he felt, and a lot of times the way his family treated him was outright wrong. So his was a realistic, human character, but I felt like the rest of his family was not.

There is no way everyone else in the rest of that huge family never had any problems—no arguments between his two oldest teenage daughters (I am the oldest of three, and my sister and I are very close in age), no fights between any of the older siblings (until the source of Dan’s frustration is revealed—to the entire family), no problems with the parents and ANY of their children, I mean—nothing! Not real! See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Nichole, age 27
Negative—We just switched off this movie—I found it extremely offensive. We watched it with our 2 boys 11 and 6. What’s more amazing is all the reviews on this Christian site, how we take one night stands for granted and treat extramarital sex and dating so casually. There were plenty of bad scenes including the shower and aerobics one. Don’t see this movie please, save your money!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
Glynis, age 39
Comments from young people
Neutral—Morally, this movie was actually very good. The infamous exercise and shower scenes were not played out too much, and while Dan makes some wrong moral choices, he is overall a good, albeit not perfect, person. However, aside from the Christian point of view, I found the movie too depressing. There were too few laughs for it to be really considered a comedy, and the humor was derived from making Dan as miserable as possible. My opinion: rent a DVD and watch it. Theater viewing and purchasing the DVD are not worth it in the long run.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
Nathan, age 15