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With: Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Angie Harmon
Written by: Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller, based on the 1977 screenplay by Jerry Belson, David Giler and Mordecai Richler, and on a story by Gerald Gaiser
Directed by: Dean Parisot
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional humorous drug references
Running Time: 85
Date: 12/21/2005

Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

No 'Fun'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The advertisements portray Fun with Dick and Jane as a happy-go-lucky comedy about a slick husband-and-wife robber team. They rob banks, convenience stories and ATMs, and while they're holding up a coffee shop, they order a couple of mochas -- with whipped cream.

It takes a long time to get to that portion of the film, and even then the fun doesn't last long. The film's first half deals with the deadly serious issue of American workers finding themselves lost and jobless within a bad economy because of evil corporate giants and their tricky accounting.

However, Fun with Dick and Jane is too cowardly to actually satirize any of these issues head-on. Based on a half-forgotten 1977 film starring Jane Fonda and George Segal, the new film distances itself by trying to be a "comedy" and a period piece, set in the year 2000, just after Bush took office and began appearing on television, telling everyone that the economy was hunky dory.

Things look likewise deceptively bright for Dick Harper (Jim Carrey), who receives a major promotion within his giant corporation. His first task? Go on a financial talk show and tell everyone how great the company is doing. Unfortunately, Dick doesn't know that the bubble has burst, the stocks are plummeting and the company is about to go under.

At the same time, Dick's confident wife Jane (Téa Leoni) has also quit her job as a travel agent, leaving them both unemployed. Their savings, pension, etc. were all tied up in Dick's company, and so in rapid succession, they lose their furniture, landscaping, electricity, etc. We're apparently supposed to laugh as Dick and Jane haul away their big screen television and their little boy jumps on top of it to try and save it from the pawn shop.

It's as if the filmmakers tried to make a comedy out of The Grapes of Wrath. There's just nothing funny about a family losing their livelihood and falling to just this side of starvation. If the film had taken the effort to build a satire, that would have been one thing, but all we get is one small insider joke. The company CEO (Alec Baldwin), having got off scott free, is interviewed on television while on a hunting trip. He makes some kind of speech about how we're all feeling the pain, and then says, "Now watch this shot," and squeezes off a shot at a passing bird. Some viewers will recognize this as a small dig at our illustrious president. But it's not enough.

Fun with Dick and Jane winds itself up into the predictable happy ending and another Enron joke, just in case we didn't get the implication. Director Dean Parisot's last feature film, Home Fries (1998), had this same off-putting vibe. It's a curious comic romance surrounded by weird violence and a fetish for military helicopters, but with no connection between the two sides.

Carrey barely survives under Parisot's haphazard direction. He has one vintage scene, early on, riding the endless elevator to the executive suites to receive his promotion. He improvises an "I Believe I Can Fly" singing-and-dancing routine to the tune of the elevator music and stops dead just as the doors part. Other than that, his attempts as zaniness and/or sincerity never seem to mesh with the film's funky fabric. Leoni, as well as Baldwin and Richard Jenkins, are likewise squandered.

As with the recent Syriana, it's tempting to get behind Fun with Dick and Jane for its angry message aimed at conservative, corporate America. But with nothing to support it, a message is just a message. As it turns out, Fun with Dick and Jane is too silly to be taken seriously, and too serious to be silly.

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