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Steve Carell gets the balance right

Posted at 12:02 PM on October 30, 2007 by Euan Kerr

In "Dan in Real Life" Steve Carell morphs from a comedy star into something much more: he becomes the iconic representation of the modern middle class Joe.

In many ways "Dan," with its story of a widower dad trying to find his way in the world with three daughters in tow, is pretty darn formulaic.

But Carell raises the whole production. He's a very funny performer, but his performance drips pathos, the utter despair he feels at trying to do the right thing in a world which sees him as an idiot.

Robert Bly talks about how the modern father is a character of humorous distain, a useless screw-up whose main function is to set up the laugh lines. Carell does that as "Dan," but his pain is plain to see.

Carell is lauded for his "Office" Work, but I can never shake the spectre of the Ricky Gervais original when I see it. Carell is too decent a guy to match the Gervais odious incompetence which makes the British "Office" the utter indictment of modern life that it is. And "40 year old Virgin" was funny in a very cruel way, and eventually just seems mean-spirited.

"Dan in Real Life" is a turning point. Who knows if people will remember it much in the future, but from this vantage point it seems that it marks a significant moment in Steve Carell's career.

October 2007
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