FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (2005)
Starring Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Angie Harmon, Jeff Garlin, John Michael Higgins, Maggie Rowe, Carlos Jacott, Richard Burgi and Ralph Nader.
Screenplay by Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller and Peter Tolan.
Directed by Dean Parisot.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Hollywood continues with the unapologetic slash and burn policy of taking favorite movies from my childhood, needlessly remaking them and turning them into worthless, unwatchable crap. The 1977 comedy this travesty was based on was actually fantastic – a smart and funny satire of inflation, unemployment and corporate greed. A goof on the old Dick and Jane children’s books, the movie toys with the idea of what will happen when those eternal children finally grow up and face real life. Starring George Segal as corporate exec Dick and Jane Fonda as his trophy wife Jane, when Dick loses his job in a series of lay-offs, eventually the couple must turn to crime. Ed McMahon plays Dick’s slimy and eternally sloshed ex-boss and eventual target in crime.
It seems like fertile ground to revisit in the modern economy: especially in the age of banker bonuses and the shifting financial landscape over the past few decades. The people behind this remake actually did make one smart decision, trying to up the ante on corporate scum to the post-Enron world. Too bad the story was otherwise diluted to take all of the intelligent satire off the table, and turning it into… well… just another bad Jim Carrey movie.
Dick, as played by Carrey, is a mincing, moronic, butt-kissing jackass. You can see why he would be used as a patsy – though you will have no idea whatsoever how he got his job in the first place. In this role, every one of Carrey’s annoying bad habits is turned up to hyperdrive (though, thankfully he does not talk with his ass.) Carrey can sometimes act, and apparently does know the difference between a character and a caricature – just look at Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Man on the Moon – but here he falls back into all his extremely stupid stunts and reminds me, once again, why I can’t stand most movies he is in.
Téa Leoni is certainly a lot more sympathetic as Jane, but she is playing essentially the same half-sweetheart, half-bitch role that she has played in nearly everything she has done in recent years. (The role was originally intended for Cameron Diaz, who, wisely, passed on it.) Nicely modulated corporate sleaze supporting performances by Alec Baldwin and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under) are completely wasted in a film which exists only to have Carrey mug for the camera and melt down in public.
For a movie which claims to be about the little guy getting back at corporate greed, Fun With Dick and Jane certainly tries to have it both ways. The robberies which Dick and Jane commit to return to opulence all seem to side the couple more with the robber barons of industry – they mostly knock off small businesses. The original, a much savvier and more thoughtful film, had Dick and Jane mostly ripping off huge, soulless corporate entities – loan companies, huge chain stores, corrupt televangelists, the phone company and the like. Here they are robbing coffee shops, Japanese restaurants, mini-markets and even individuals on the street. Why do Dick and Jane have more right to that money than the hard-working people who they victimize? Because they feel a sense of entitlement. Hmmm… that sounds like the execs at a certain fallen energy company I know.
Because of this, the feel-good change in the film’s finale rings hollow. In a supposed act of philanthropy Dick and Jane rob the evil exec and return the money to the victimized workers (rather than the original 1977 ending where Dick and Jane apparently kept the corporate slush fund.). This act of charity and largess is so out of keeping with everything we’ve seen of the couple so far that it is hard to believe and hard to digest.
Therefore, at the end of the new movie when the filmmakers thank a series of execs from corrupt companies like Enron, Tyco and Worldcom, it seems rather disingenuous. They are trying to condemn the big bad industrial guys when they are doing the exact same thing – stealing as much money as they can get from every dumb schmuck who buys a ticket. The completely ignored expectation of being entertained makes Fun With Dick and Jane the movie equivalent of a junk bond. (12/05)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 29, 2005.