Dan in Real Life

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Short takes

PG to 13 (Sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dan in Real Life
  • a review of Dan in Real Life completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 14 February 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Lacks interest for this age group.
Children 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to sexual references.
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Dan in Real Life
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Infrequent sexual innuendo
Length: 94 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Dan (Steve Carell) is a widower, the father of 3 daughters and author of a regular parenting advice column for local newspaper. While giving out parenting advice, Dan struggles in his dealings with his own children;  his eldest daughter Jane who wants to practise her driving, his petulant middle daughter Carla who has a new boyfriend and his youngest daughter Lily who is growing up fast.

In an atmosphere of family discord, Dan and the girls set off to Rhode Island for the annual family get together organised by his parents’(John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest). While running errands for the family, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) in the local bookshop. They have an immediate connection and, on returning to the family house, Dan reveals his good fortune to his brothers and sister. However when Dan’s brother Mitch (Dane Cook), introduces his new girlfriend to the family, Dan is dismayed to find that she happens to be Marie.

For the remainder of the holiday weekend, Dan is in agony as he becomes increasingly infatuated with Marie. His parents notice his strange behaviour and thinking he’s lonely, arrange a blind date for him. Mitch suggests double date, and the events of the evening give Dan hope that Marie also likes him. As they begin to lose control of how they feel about each other and Dan’s problems with his daughters increase, the situation escalates into a very public family crisis.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family relationships; Grief and loss following the death of a wife and mother

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • When he finds Dan kissing Marie, Mitch punches him in the face, causing him to fall down. Dan is later seen with a cut lip and black eye.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children below five, including the following:

  • At different times in the movie, Dan and his daughters mention that their mother is no longer with them, and despite the passage of 4 years, they still miss her. They are not visibly distressed during these disclosures.
  • While trying to secretly escape out of Marie’s bathroom window, Dan loses his balance and falls off the roof. He lands in bushes and is uninjured.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by the fact that the girls have lost their mother.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Dan is shown sorting out laundry early in the movie. He finds a pair of frilly G-string knickers, which belongs to his daughter Cara.
  • Dan and Cara have an argument when Cara’s boyfriend Marty turns up at the family holiday. Cara tries to reassure her father that he doesn’t have to worry about the ‘sex thing’, because in fact it is Marty who ‘wants to wait’.
  • Dan goes on a blind date, and the following morning he is briefly grilled by his brothers about how it went. He does not discuss the details with them.


Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Dan watches as Marie and Mitch stretch after the family exercise session. The stretch session is quite intimate with close contact.
  • Dan and Marie are having a discussion about their predicament in her bathroom when Dan’s daughter Jane asks Marie whether she can come in to get some advice. Dan hides in the shower, and after letting Jane in, Marie pretends she is going to have shower and turns the tap on. Jane tells Marie to have her shower and she will close her eyes. Dan briefly sees Marie’s naked back reflected in the mirror as she undresses, and then she gets into the shower. She is shown from her shoulders up. Dan covers his eyes and then escapes through the window.
  • Brief kissing scenes between Cara and Marty, Marie and Mitch, and Marie and Dan.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • During dinner with the family, the adults drink wine. No one is intoxicated.
  • During the double date, the couples go to a bar. They have alcoholic drinks, but no one is intoxicated.

Coarse language

None of concern.

In a nutshell

Dan in Real Life is a romantic comedy which is likely to be enjoyed by adolescents and adults. Young children may find the wordy dialogue, gentle pace and focus on family lack interest.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • The importance of communication, understanding and forgiveness in family relationships.
  • The sense of protection and belonging that family can provide.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours such as:

  • The consequences of lying, disobedience and being disrespectful towards authority figures.
  • Coping with loss, and grieving.