It has been a while since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris directed a film. Six years in fact. But their last film was the quirky, well received "Little Miss Sunshine" that sprang from the film festivals and capture a couple of Oscars.


This time they take on the screenplay of actress Zoe Kazan, who has been in a few quirky films herself. And for some reason I can't help but feel that this script is her own way of illustration how an actor (or actress) can have their role changed at the whim of the director.


"Ruby Sparks" is about a novelist named Calvin (Paul Dano) who struck literary gold by penning a best selling novel at a tender young age. He is now living quite comfortably off the residuals of that book - or at least he should be. You see, he wants to write another book but can't come up with a story. Yes, the infamous writers block.

To try to resolve his problems he is seeing a psychiatrist (Elliott Gould) who finally gets around to tell him to just write and something will come. Sure enough he does and a story starts to flow. The story is about his ideal girl - Ruby Sparks.


But as his story progresses, one day there she is...Ruby Sparks (Kazan) in all her glory. Of course, Calvins first reaction is that of disbelief. But no, she is quite real in every sense.


The question is how real is she. His brother Harry (Chris Messina) suggests that he change something about her in the book, to see what happens.


Calvin does and, sure enough, she changes like the written character. She is, as Harry proclaims, every man's dream girl. A woman who can be modified at the whim of her man.

But we all know that, just like in the film "Mannequin" and - to a lesser degree - "Pinocchio" there is a problem with people created out of air (or wood). The longer they remain, the more human characteristics they develop.


Calvin's last girl left him despite his wealth. She saw flaws in his character; obvious flaws that Dano portrays so well. So why wouldn't Ruby detect these same flaws as she become more real?


Giving Calvin limited amounts of advise his his mother (Annette Bening) and her lover (Antonio Banderos) who provide that special quirkiness that Alan Arkin provided in "Little Miss Sunshine". Add to that a neurotic agent played by Steve Coogan and Gould's character and you get a nifty cast.


But let's get back to the story. Is it a statement by Kazan about the constant re-writes of a films characters? I can't help but think it is and that's okay.


We never know how or why Ruby came to life; there is no wish or mechanical wizard ("Big"). It just happens and Kazan and Dano play the roles to a tee.


"Ruby Sparks" joins the list of charming and fanciful films so far this summer - "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" lead the list.   -- GEOFF BURTON