Fun With Dick and Jane
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Just one more addition to the endless parade of Hollywood remakes, Fun With Dick and Jane follows in the footsteps of a 1977 film starring Jane Fonda and George Segal. The primer-reader names and introductions ("See Dick run. Sit, Spot, sit.") have not been changed, but the story has shifted some. It's the year 2000 (for reasons not entirely clear), and Dick and Jane Harper are living the suburban dream. Dick's on the verge of becoming a corporate VP. Jane works a high-stress job as a corporate travel agent. Their son, Billy, spends so much time with their Hispanic housekeeper that he's bilingual, and the new landscaping on their $600,000 home looks fantastic.
Then the bottom falls out. Jane quits her job in anticipation of Dick's promotion just in time for his company to disintegrate in an Enron-style scandal. Their savings are gone, tied up in worthless company stock. They owe more on the house than it's worth. And VP gigs for tainted execs are hard to come by. After having their lawn repossessed and selling off nearly everything they own to keep the house (and even bombing out on a couple of attempts at low-wage jobs), the couple finally decides to explore crime as a means of paying the bills. Turns out they're not bad at it.
But when Dick is indicted in the corporate scandal, the pair go after Dick's former bosses for cheating all the employees out of their pensions.
As warped as their priorities are, Dick and Jane obviously love each other and their son. In the film's completely ridiculous ending, the pair unexpectedly share a pilfered windfall with a large group of needy people. (The sharing part is what's positive, not the pilfering. But you knew that already, right?)
Dick and Jane do some frolicking. In one scene, the camera glimpses her underwear as they appear about to have sex in their bedroom but suddenly stop and schedule it for the weekend. A joke is made about turning to prostitution for money. Dick and Jane are inspired to passion in their car after their first robbery. We see Dick's muddy handprint on Jane's clothed breast.
Fun seeks to yank laughs out of the audience with lots of trademark Jim Carrey physical comedy. In addition to falling down a lot, he gets kicked in the crotch, pelted with plastic water jugs, clocked in the jaw and covered in soap powder, among other things. The rest of the cast joins the fray, kicking, hitting, tackling and crashing cars. During their crime spree, the couple threatens victims with realistic looking water guns, but get shot at with real ones.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word is heard, as are about five uses each of the s-word, "bastard" and "b--ch." In addition to milder profanities, Jesus' and God's names are interjected about 10 times. A string of bleeped obscenities is heard on television.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Dick smokes cigars with the guys at a neighborhood pool party. People drink at parties, restaurants and bars. Dick appears to be drunk at a bar, dancing on a table and yelling insults at people, but the bartender says he's only had half a beer. One of Dick's former bosses drinks heavily and has become an admitted drunk in response to the corporate scandal. To make some money, Jane participates in a drug trial that causes her face to become comically swollen. When Dick has trouble urinating into a cup in front of a female supervisor for a drug test, she offers to fill it for him for money, claiming she's been "off the pipe" for several months.
Other Negative Elements
The couple's foray into a life of crime is played for laughs, but it also works for them. They save their house and repopulate it with cool stuff. And the film never hints that their actions are, perhaps, wrong. They experience no negative consequence, although several other former employees of Dick's company do get nabbed for similar criminal activity.
See audience staring stoically at the screen. Laugh, audience, laugh. See audience chuckle occasionally and check watches. End, movie, end. See reviewer look for ways to use early-reader language to mock unfunny movie.
Fun With Dick and Jane just isn't so much. Carrey's comedy feels forced into the film, more a reminder of how funny he's been in other movies than anything else. And it doesn't help that the story rings so untrue. In the high double-digit unemployment recession of the 1970s, the original film probably hit closer to home. But in an era of historically low five-percent unemployment and rising wages, it's just tough to believe Dick's only options are corporate VP or hanging with illegal immigrants as a day laborer.
Fun is full of missed opportunities and wrong turns. After setting us up to see the emptiness of Dick and Jane's materialistic lifestyle, director Dean Parisot and screenwriter Judd Apatow do nothing to suggest a need for an alternative. Instead, they seem to want us to feel bad for Dick and Jane because they got cheated by the corporate fat cats. The film's last act finds a high horse and mounts up, as Dick and Jane transform from thieves to caper crusaders for the "little people," sticking it to Alec Baldwin's criminal CEO. Their obvious moral disconnect is never acknowledged. On some level, we're expected to believe that they're justified in ripping off coffee shop owners to support their half-a-mil house and widescreen TV, while the big boss is evil for ripping off employees to support his private helicopter. What?
Worse, when the credits finally roll, they offer "special" sarcastic thanks to Ken Lay of Enron and other corporate CEOs accused and/or convicted of hurting their employees for personal greed. I'm not defending those guys, but a movie about the joy of stealing for fun and profit seems ill equipped to wag the finger of shame in their direction. If the filmmakers had nudged Dick and Jane to go looking for a little meaning in their empty lives instead of someone to blame for their woes, they might have found some heart to make up for the tepid humor.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jim Carrey as Dick Harper; Téa Leoni as Jane Harper; Alec Baldwin as Jack McAllister; Richard Jenkins as Frank Bascombe
Dean Parisot ( )