Dan In Real Life

Helaine got to choose the movie Saturday night. This responsibility used to rotate, but she’s so much better than I am at picking – why bother!

We went to North Haven to see the ‘sneak preview’ of “Dan in Real Life,” starring Steve Carell.

Years ago, a sneak preview was really that – a sneak. You didn’t know what you were seeing until you got there. Not so now.

By and large movie studios ‘sneak’ movies they expect will produce strong word-of-mouth. That’s a good selling point for seeing a movie none of your friends have seen.

Helaine worried the theater might be sold out, so on my way back from Yale, I stopped in to purchase tickets. It was less than half full. She’s better at picking flicks than guessing the gate.

“Dan in Real Life” is an emotional movie. We were primed before it even began. The coming attractions featured a trailer for “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

We both cried like babies!

It was only a two and a half minute trailer. I’m bringing a box of Kleenex if I see the full film!

“Dan in Real Life” is the story of Dan Burns, (Steve Carell) a widower, raising three daughters. Family Affair, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Three Sons, Andy Griffith, The Rifleman, Bonanza… I’ve seen widowers and their children before.

It seemed like a plot device in those TV shows. It rang true here.

While at a family reunion in Rhode Island&#185, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche). It’s a chance meeting at a bookstore, but there’s an immediate connection.

They part, only to run into each other again almost immediately. She is Dan’s brother’s girlfriend, also invited to the family weekend!

This is a story without a lot of surprises. The kids are cute and witty. His parents are level headed and supportive. Dan’s life, already in emotional upheaval from the death of his wife, is put on a spit over an open flame and turned.

There is little that doesn’t unfold as you expect.

A movie doesn’t have to be surprising to be good. Satisfying is enough. “Dan in Real Life” satisfies.

Carell’s Dan is a man worthy of empathy. Binoche’s Marie was worldly, attractive and cast as a love interest in a movie, without being fifteen years younger than the man the man she’s attracted to. For the record, Carell is 45, Binoche is 43!

Also in the cast, Dane Cook (annoying in this film, as I find him in real life), John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest. It’s a large supporting cast and mainly peripheral to Dan and Marie.

The concentration of sobs per minute was greater in the pre-show trailer for “The Bucket List,” but there was plenty of crying here too. There were lots of funny moments as well.

Good choice by Helaine again. I hereby forfeit my next turn as the Fox Family decider.

&#185 – Amazingly, no one spoke with a Rhode Island accent. In my opinion, it is the harshest accent in America, making Bostonians sound as if they’re from Nebraska.

Saturday Night Live – You’ve Got To Be Kidding

Over the last 32 years I have moved back and forth as a fan of Saturday Night Live. Over time the show has been both brilliant and horrendous.

We’ve re-entered the horrendous stage.

Last night’s SNL was virtually laugh free. That’s bad, because along with canning some of the on-air staff, there have been changes to the writers as well, including Tina Fey, the head writer, gone to “30 Rock.”

Funny situations were confused with funny dialog. That’s a beginner’s mistake. If the setup is inherently funny by you go nowhere, you’ve failed.

For me, it started with Dane Cook’s monologue. Stef said it was material she hadn’t seen before – laudable. But it wasn’t funny. Mostly it was forced, as if he were saying, “This is where you’re supposed to laugh,” nervously.

I will give the show some more time. I hope it finds its footing, but this is not encouraging in any sense. I didn’t see any spark.

In this day of cost conscious networks, there’s no tolerance for the type of slide that took place during the Jean Doumainon era – not by the public, not by the network.

Here are some of the most recent topics from NBC’s Saturday Night Live discussion board. Talk about being hoisted by one’s own petard:

When is Saturday Night Live going to be funny again?

I love SNL BUT …

People actually get paid to write this stuff???

Why can’t SNL be funny?

Negative…Negative people

Dane Cook was right.