Apparently following the Robin Williams model for comedians looking to grow up a little, Steve Carell's acting career after The Office is looking increasingly serious. First he refuses to don a leather duster and pick up a gatling gun for our proposed sequel Dan In Real Life: Back 2 The Life, choosing instead to play the sensitive voice of reason to Meryl Streep’s latest midlife crisis. Now he’s signed on for Mandate Pictures’ Dogs Of Babel, which will find Carell talking to dogs—and not in a fun, Beverly Hills Chihuahua way. Carell will play a linguistics professor who comes home to discover his wife dead in their backyard, ostensibly of an accident; unconvinced, he strives to teach their dog to speak English so he can learn what really happened.

And while that sounds cute—Steve Carell teaching elocution to a dog!—it’s decidedly not, as the Carolyn Parkhurst novel it’s based on turns relentlessly grim midway through, then ends with a fairly sad revelation that you can probably guess at right now. In other words, it’s definitely a departure. Granted, Carell has pulled off more subdued, crying-on-the-inside-clown roles before in films like Little Miss Sunshine and, yes, Dan In Real Life, but Dogs Of Babel sounds like it could be his first real step toward genuinely maudlin fare. Five years from now, if Carell is starring in his versions of Patch Adams or Bicentennial Man, you’ll be able to point to Dogs Of Babel as the moment where it all went wrong.

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