Fun With Dick and Jane
Directed by Dean Parisot. Starring Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Jeff Garlin, Richard Burgi, Angie Harmon. (2005, PG-13, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 23, 2005
When the first version of this movie appeared in 1977 it starred George Segal and Jane Fonda and meshed perfectly with its times – a little countercultural, a lot class-conscious, and a touch subversive. This remake arrives starring two of today’s most prominent comedy top-liners, Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni, but the movie is missing any insidious edge: There is nothing subtle or understated about this new movie’s comedic thrust. It lays out the basic plot and then tromps up and down on it. The story, about an upper-middle-class married couple who hit an unexpected downturn when the husband loses his job due to the corporate malfeasance of others, seems perfectly suited to our current era of corporate scandal as names like Enron, WorldCom, and Adelphia have become synonymous with white-collar banditry and crimes against the underclasses. Although hewing pretty closely to the original’s basic storyline, the remake shares little of the realism and down-to-earth humor that made the original work so well. In both cases, the couples turn to bank robbery to solve their financial crises, but in the new version the crimes are so overblown and badly staged that it’s impossible to believe they actually get away with them. Carrey is in one of his more volatile and frenetic modes here, behaving as though he’s acting out every idea that pops into his head. There’s little modulation to his character, and at times he’s so obnoxious that you might want to root against him rather than sympathize with his underdog status. Leoni needs to start studying the scripts she’s offered more carefully, as her recent comedy outings in James L. Brooks’ Spanglish and Woody Allen’s Hollywood Ending have simply done her wrong. Meanwhile, following his turn in Elizabethtown, Baldwin seems to have become the new go-to guy to play corporate executives. Fun With Dick and Jane is co-writer Judd Apatow's follow-up to this summer’s smash comedy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, although it’s not likely his new film will find similar success. However, Carrey brings so much to this movie that isn’t on the written page, and yet so little of it appears to be an improvement. The actor needs a stronger controlling influence to keep his incessant spontaneity in check, which doesn’t seem likely to happen now that he’s moved into producing with this film and his previous comedy Bruce Almighty. It’s all well and good to run a scroll of corporate evildoers at the end of the film as in Dick and Jane, but if these robber barons were skewered properly along the way, such heavy-handed, last-minute tactics wouldn’t be necessary. Carrey delivers farce when what is needed is satire.