Dan in Real Life appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I felt pleased with the movie’s image.
Overall definition looked good. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but these remained minor, so the majority of the flick demonstrated positive clarity. No issues with moiré effects or jagged edges materialized, and source flaws remained absent.
Life went with a warm, earthy palette. It tended toward browns and reds that looked full and rich throughout the flick. The colors matched the New England settings and seemed solid. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows were well-developed and clear. This turned into a satisfying presentation.
If Life had boasted anything other than a subdued, dialogue-heavy Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack, I’d have fallen off my chair. The soundfield concentrated heavily on the forward channels, and speech dominated. Music showed strong stereo imaging, and some minor environmental effects opened up the film to a degree.
Surround usage remained restricted, as the rear speakers gave us a modest sense of atmosphere but not much more most of the time. I think the flick’s showiest scene came from doors closed in the surrounds.
Audio quality always pleased. Dialogue was concise and natural, and effects fell into the same domain. Since these elements played a small role, the track didn’t demand much for them, but they seemed accurate and full. Music was the best aspect of the mix, as the songs and score were rich and dynamic. The track was good enough for a “B-“ but that’s about it – and that grade might be too high given the sonic limitations on display.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio showed a little more depth, though the restricted nature of the soundfield meant minor improvements at best. Visuals worked better, though, as the Blu-ray was more accurately defined and more natural. This wasn’t an enormous step-up, but it did work better than the DVD.
The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director Peter Hedges. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at how he came onto the project, script, story and characters, cast and performances, editing, sets and locations, music, cinematography, visual motifs, and a few other details.
Hedges manages to provide an informative commentary. While he indulges in the usual praise and happy talk, these elements don’t dominate. Instead, the director tells us a fair amount about the production and makes it an enjoyable ride.
Two featurettes follow. Just Like Family: The Making of Dan in Real Life goes for 15 minutes, one second as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes materials and interviews. We get notes from Hedges, writer Pierce Gardner, producers Brad Epstein and Jon Shestack, and actors Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Brittany Robertson, Emily Blunt, Alison Pill, Dane Cook, John Mahoney, Amy Ryan, Frank Wood and Norbert Leo Butz. “Family” looks at aspects of the script, story and characters, Hedges’ style as director and the film’s tone, locations and sets, rehearsals and performance challenges, and a few more shoot specifics.
Since Hedges covers so much in his commentary, we find a fair amount of redundant material here. There’s also quite a lot of praise for the film and those involved, so except a high level of happy talk. We learn a little in this decent piece, but it’s not anything particularly memorable.
Handmade Music: Creating the Score lasts nine minutes, 50 seconds and involves Hedges, Epstein, music supervisor Dana Sano, and composer Sondre Lerche. Handmade” offers a quick look at the movie’s score and songs. Like “Family”, this one comes with a lot of puffy comments, but at least it stands on its own better since it touches on material not heavily covered in the commentary. There’s some decent information to be found here.
11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 20 minutes, nine seconds. These cover… not much of anything. Life is already padded in its theatrical version, so more of the same wouldn’t add anything positive.
Many are simply extended editions of existing sequences. God knows we don’t need an even longer version of the family talent show; it’s already unbearable. The most interesting clip shows Dan’s “skills” as a parenting expert, but even it doesn’t do much for me.
We can watch these with or without commentary from Hedges. He provides some notes about the scenes as well as the reasons he cut them. Hedges offers good insights in this helpful collection of remarks.
More cut footage shows up via a three-minute, 26-second collection of Outtakes. This reel includes the usual sort of goofiness and goof-ups that populate 99 percent of this kind of piece. It’s not interesting to me at all.
The disc opens with ads for WALL-E, Enchanted and Becoming Jane. No trailer for Dan in Real Life appears.
Although I liked Dan in Real Life more than I expected, that comes as faint praise. The movie does come with some quality elements, but it gets bogged down in a thin story and too much filler. The Blu-ray provides strong picture and decent audio along with a smattering of generally useful supplements. I have no complaints about the disc, but the film itself is too erratic to succeed.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of DAN IN REAL LIFE