Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, sexual humor, violence and some drug references
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Tea Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Jeff Garlin
Director: Dean Parisot
Screenplay: Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller
Review published December 26, 2005
Fun with Dick and Jane is a loose remake of the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda film of the same name, revamped to incorporate a running commentary on the greed and corruption of corporate America, where CEOs leave with millions, leaving others to take the fall, while the thousands of employees are left holding worthless stocks and no promises of a job. This commentary is perhaps the only thing going for this rather pedestrian comedy, save for the energetic performances of the main stars. Such an undertaking should merit a smart and satirical script to go along with it, along with subtle, sharp-minded direction. Unfortunately for us as viewers, director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Home Fries) and the screenwriters see this idea as more of a screwball comedy, and whatever underlying message driving the themes in the background are muted by the constant need to be frenetically madcap. One could forgive going for broke at times if it were actually funny, but such is not the case.
The premise of the film involves Dick Harper (Carrey, A Series of Unfortunate Events) losing his cushy VP position in the corporate office he works for when the company comes unraveled. The CEO of the company had the foresight to sell most of his shares in the company, knowing that it was in trouble, while some underhanded things were going on to make it look like they were turning a profit to the public at large. Dick is having the darnedest time finding an adequate job, and as the months go by, both he and his wife Jane (Leoni, Spanglish) become desperate for any job they can get a hold of to make ends continue to meet. Neither is having much success staying employed, so in a bout of clear desperation, they resort to armed robbery of stores and banks to get the cash they need to restore the life they once had.
Fun with Dick and Jane has an uneven feel to it due to an imbalance in the storytelling department. Much too much time is spent in setting up the financial downfall of the Harpers. This could have taken a one minute montage to relate, but instead, the first half of the film is nothing but redundant scenes of the couple going further and further in debt. Perhaps the creative minds behind the film felt that the real humor comes in seeing Carrey and Leoni struggling in menial jobs, but if that's the assumption, they are clearly misguided.
Or perhaps these scenes are deemed necessary in order to show the mental anguish that would turn these normally good-natured people into criminals that don't mind taking money away from the livelihoods of small shop owners and their neighbors in order to be able to keep their plasma screen TV. It's another miscalculation, as these characters lose all right to sympathy once they appear to be enjoying their new lives hiding behind the guise of a loaded weapon, especially when they start striving for style points by donning funny costumes and cracking jokes during the heists.
Finally, the film sets about targeting the villain of the piece, with Alec Baldwin (The Aviator, The Last Shot) playing a conniving CEO that that has a personality not dissimilar to Enron's elusive Ken Lay, and even a dash of the hubris of George W. Bush. This is clearly the angle that should have been taken from the outset if there were to be any chance of the film succeeding, but even if they nail the conflict right late in the game, the actual plot to get their just desserts still plays out about as dumb as the rest of it.
Those that originally came up with a modern updating of Fun with Dick and Jane had their minds in the right place, but their hearts were clearly not in it. Either that or their balls were snipped off by their own corporate interests in pleasing the powers-that-be in their own companies -- the ones that want to see Jim Carrey do zany physical humor that everyone and their grandmother can understand. What this film needs is someone at the helm that isn't afraid to go for the jugular, and that someone is clearly not Dean Parisot and the duo of screenwriters that have track records of just writing to make a buck entertaining the audience rather than engaging them in mental stimulation.
Unless you find Jim Carrey making faces to be a laugh riot in itself, Fun with Dick and Jane is an initially promising film that only disappoints and frustrates by titillating us with the hint of intelligent thematic twists, then proceeding to inject as much slapstick as it can to go for the cheap laughs.
They say that time flies when you're having fun, but when that fun is with Dick and Jane, you'll realize that the opposite is true when you're not. 90 minutes has rarely seemed so long.
©2005 Vince Leo