Movie Review: Fun With Dick & Jane

By Amy Lamare, December 21, 2005

Fun with Dick and Jane (FUNDJ), is a remake of the 1977 Jane Fonda – George Segal classic about a couple who finds themselves unemployed and must resort to desperate measures to maintain their lifestyle. This update stars Jim Carrey (JCARR) and Tea Leoni (TLEON) as Dick and Jane Harper, residents of a snooty, upscale neighborhood in a bland Southern California town. Dick works for Globodyne, a mega corporation employing 6,000 people. Dick is promoted on the day Globodyne tanks and the corrupt CEO (Alec Baldwin (ABALD)), gleefully makes off with $400 million in profits. The parallel to Enron is obvious and intended.

Fun with Dick and Jane presents Dick’s situation as an inside joke to the viewers. The situations are all so exaggerated, one has to assume the film makers recognized that many Americans in this post dot-com, post Enron society could identify with their plight. “We’re in a bit of a pickle, Dick,” Jane says to her husband. So why not make it as silly as possible? Why not use Carrey’s physical comedy to squeeze out every last cheap laugh? But first, let’s recap, OK?

In order to afford their lifestyle, Dick and Jane work their butts off and leave the care of their son Billy to their nanny. In fact, to illustrate just how much time Billy spends with his Latino nanny, he speaks with a Spanish accent. When Dick returns home from work and finds his neighbor bought a new Mercedes, he all but literally turns green with envy. Dick and Jane are so focused on keeping up with the Joneses that when the landscapers come to repossess their lawn, Jane – upon seeing her neighbors watching – turns it into a tirade against the gardeners, blaming them for bringing the wrong grass. Indeed, this drive to succeed, to have more, to be more is their very undoing.

Dick has just been promoted to VP of Communications at Globodyne, enabling wife Jane to quit her high stress travel agent job and Dick to trade in their late 80s BMW for a brand new 7 series They also begin construction on a new hot tub. Only wait. Dick’s been set up. Globodyne is bankrupt and its 6000 employees are now out of work. Oh and by the way, their pension funds are broke too.

So what’s any self-respecting yuppie couple to do? Well turn to crime of course! Their crime spree starts out quite funny, with Dick ending up helping old ladies instead of robbing convenience stores and Jane dubiously driving their getaway car while laughing at him.

Soon though, they grow bold enough to rob banks, wearing costumes like Bill and Hilary, Sonny and Cher, etc. The couple grows so successful in their thievery that not only do they get their lawn and plasma TV back, but their brand new pool and hot tub too. And then Globodyne’s alcoholic, morally corrupt CFO (the brilliant Richard Jenkins) reenters their life. Dick and the CFO plan the ultimate revenge – to steal the $400 million the CEO made off with.

As the capers progress, Carrey’s performance grows more and more out of control. Had he reined in his elastic limbed performance just a bit, say been more Bruce Almighty and less Ace Ventura, the flick could have ascended beyond just mildly amusing escapist comedy. But when Carrey starts aping around, he doesn’t stop. Even Tea Leoni looks bored with his antics at times.

Carrey is getting too old to use his same old hammy shtick. Physical comedians of past generations like Steve Martin (SMART) and Bill Murray (BMURR) found ways to alter their performances as they aged to remain funny and relevant without looking like a caricature of their younger selves. Carrey comes across as cartoonish. And Jim? Eat a cheeseburger, you’re looking a bit gaunt.

Carrey and Leoni’s comic timing is perfect and in sync, and Baldwin proves once again that he is the perfect smarmy cheese bag. The final caper in all its complicated choreography works well, too. Where Fun with Dick and Jane ultimately fails is in its sheer mediocrity. It’s all a little too tidy, everything comes a little too easily. It is only sort of funny and only sort of good and ultimately, doesn’t really make you either laugh too hard or think too much. Which, come to think of it, might be exactly the right recipe for harried holiday shoppers looking for a break.

This work is the property of Stock Exchange and Amy Lamare. It is not to be reused, reprinted or stolen under any conditions.

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