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#390. Steve Carell

Anyone who was watching television in the mid-2000s was likely aware of NBC’s mockumentary sitcom, The Office. Even today, you’re likely to find this show on syndication somewhere on cable television. If you’ve seen an episode of the show, you’ll likely recognize Steve Carell as the boss of the eponymous office, Michael Scott. While he started out in television, Carell has worked his way up to motion pictures. Initially, Carell mostly stuck to his talent of comedy and performed in genre films of the same type. Over time, he has expanded his acting chops and shown he can handle serious roles as well. This progression from television to comedies to dramas is pretty standard for comedic actors, and Steve Carell was no different. This week’s two films highlight some of the dramas and comedies of Steve Carell.

Dan in Real LifeDan in Real Life
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Length: 98 minutes / 1.63 hours

Sometimes the transition from comedy to drama can be, well . . . dramatic. Other times, there’s enough of a range of comedies to allow for a somewhat smoother transition. Case in point: the dark comedy. These can be edgier works like Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) or Knocked Up (2007). They can also be Oscar darlings like Little Miss Sunshine (2006), The Big Short (2015), or Vice (2018). Sometimes they’re straight up depressing like Dan in Real Life (2007) or Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). In any case, these darker and edgier comedies eventually lead the way to more serious dramas like Foxcatcher (2014), which earned Steve Carell his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. Pretty soon, these dramas start to happen more regularly. In Carell’s case, films like Last Flag Flying (2017), Beautiful Boy (2018), and Welcome to Marwen (2018) have few comedic moments in them, if any at all.

As a widower trying to raise three girls, Dan Burns (Steve Carell), is having trouble figuring out his own life while he writes advice for others via his newspaper column. Nothing seems to break his depression. Even a visit to Rhode Island to meet up with his family for their annual gathering doesn’t help. As luck would have it, he runs across a woman in a bookstore who piques his interest. The two seem to hit it off, but Marie (Juliette Binoche) is hesitant to lead him any further since she has a boyfriend already. As it just so happens, her boyfriend is Dan’s brother Mitch (Dane Cook). With Marie participating in the family activities, Dan has more opportunities to fall in love with her, even if he knows she’s “off limits.” During the family talent show, he lets slip his true feelings, which starts a series of events in motion that will change everyone’s lives.

Despicable MeDespicable Me
Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 95 minutes / 1.58 hours

While Steve Carell still does comedies, they’re certainly where he got his start. Interestingly enough, quite a few of his comedies have spawned sequels, thus giving him more opportunities to show off his comedic talent. Before The Office started, Carell was in films like Bruce Almighty (2003) and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). These films led to Evan Almighty (2007), and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), respectively. Even though Carell has also acted in other comedies like Get Smart (2008) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013), his longest series to date has been as a voice actor in the Despicable Me franchise. First appearing in 2010’s Despicable Me, Carell has been voicing the main character, Gru, in the sequels, Despicable Me 2 (2013) and Despicable Me 3 (2017), as well as the spin-off, Minions (2015).

After being foiled on a recent attempt to steal the Great Pyramids, Gru (Steve Carell) needs a loan from the Bank of Evil to execute his next nefarious scheme: stealing the moon. Of course, the bank needs to know that Gru can actually pull off this villainous heist and requires he obtain the necessary shrink ray before they loan him the money. This leads Gru to Vector (Jason Segel), a rival supervillain with better technology and resources. In the course of many failed attempts, Gru learns Vector’s weakness: cookies sold by three orphan girls. Rushing out to adopt said girls, Gru wants to use them to infiltrate Vector’s lab but soon finds the responsibilities of being an adopted parent are interfering with his villainy. This all comes to a head when his one opportunity to steal the moon occurs on the very same night as the girls’ dance recital. Which part of his life will he prioritize?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Steve Carell classics

Bacon #: 1 (Crazy, Stupid, Love \ Kevin Bacon)

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