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Not Much "Fun With Dick and Jane"

  • Christian Hamaker
  • 2005 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
Not Much "Fun With Dick and Jane"

Release Date:  December 21, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (brief language, some sexual humor and occasional "humorous" drug references)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time:  90 min.
Director:  Dean Parisot
Actors:  Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins

"Fun With Dick and Jane," Jim Carrey’s latest comedy, trains its sights on the corporate world, but its scattershot approach yields uneven, and ultimately disappointing, results. Surprisingly unfunny at times, the film is, at its best, mildly amusing, but its own sense of moral righteousness comes across as mean-spirited. It’s an example of the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” – even when the first “wrong” is an egregious example of corporate malfeasance that would be beyond belief were it not so rooted in actual business scandals from the past several years.

In this update of a 1977 film starring Jane Fonda and George Segal, Carrey stars as Dick Harper, a business executive on the cusp of a major promotion. His company, Globadyne, names him vice president of communications before pushing him in front of TV cameras to defend the company against charges of Enron-style financial shenanigans, orchestrated by Globadyne’s CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) and CFO Frank Bascom (Richard Jenkins). The execs’ scheme to hide company losses has unraveled, and the company’s Ken Lay-like CEO has left his company’s pension fund depleted.

Within hours, the company’s employees are out of work. Harper’s wife, Jane (Téa Leoni), is also newly unemployed, having resigned at Dick’s request, just before Globadyne collapses.

The Harpers quickly lose most of their possessions and then, facing imminent foreclosure on their home, turn to a life of crime. “We followed the rules and we got scr--ed,” Dick tells Jane. “We were good people.”

That’s when “good” goes bad. What follows is a series of robberies – played for light-hearted laughs – which fail to materialize. Although none of the characters gets seriously hurt, the notion that striking terror into others might generate a few yuks is insulting.

The film moves toward a finish with the Harpers’ plot to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from McCallister, with the assistance of CFO Bascom. The added screen time for Baldwin and Jenkins helps the proceedings, but the ludicrous outcome and false feel-good conclusion can’t save the film.

The overall result is a letdown, given that the early moments show some promise as a satire of what often substitutes for family communication in today’s world. In what passes for an amorous moment, Dick and Jane kiss but stop short of anything more, instead scheduling their lovemaking for the next Saturday night. They’re simply too busy to pause for intimate marital relations, even though their son is being raised by a nanny who appears to have more influence on him than either parent. Scenes of the young child perplexing his parents by speaking Spanish to them gently make the point.

The film’s downfall begins when it shifts away from the Harpers’ materialism to corporate greed. Globadyne is undone by financial scandals similar to those that have played out in recent years at Enron and Worldcom. Additionally, a few shots of President Bush speaking about “unmeasured prosperity,” loosely link the economic policies of the president with the corporate wrongdoing of Globadyne. A clip of McCallister pooh-poohing concerns about his company and employees before returning to his leisure activities echoes a clip of President Bush used by Michael Moore in "Fahrenheit 9/11." These scenes make it clear that the filmmakers are aiming for a blend of comedy and heavy-handed social commentary – an awkward hybrid that isn’t well suited to Carrey’s knack for broad, physical comedy.

On the plus side, Baldwin gives another dandy performance as a blowhard big-wig who puts his own pocketbook above the financial security of his workers, and Jenkins, who gave a strong dramatic performance earlier this year in "North Country," adds another humorous performance to his long list of comic roles.

But truth sometimes is stranger than fiction, and who can top the performances of Enron CEO Ken Lay and CFO Jeff Skilling, so well chronicled earlier this year in the excellent documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room?". That film is a reminder that the real-life events that inspired this telling of "Fun With Dick and Jane," and the human misery they provoked, are still too fresh to be mocked. Unlike Dick and Jane, those who lost their livelihoods and their financial security enjoy no Hollywood ending.

For a more enjoyable comedy about the challenges of today’s corporate climate, readers could rent the delightful Dennis Quaid film "In Good Company" (2004), in which the characters aren’t cartoons, and the family angle is handled with much more sophistication and effectiveness.

AUDIENCE:  Teens and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord’s name taken in vain; vulgar reference to a method for a drug test; someone says “holy Hell”; other cussing.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Frank drinks in the office; Dick gets drunk.
  • Sex/Nudity:  The Harpers make plans to have sex on the weekend; Dick says his nickname is “squirt,” which “has something to do” with how he was conceived.
  • Violence:  A bark collar is used on animals and humans; a boss verbally berates an employee for bringing him a kosher meal, shouting, “I’m an Episcopalian!”; Dick gets kicked between his legs; Dick has a substance thrown in his face by a woman who believes he’s about to grope her; a car smashes through a jewelry store window; Dick holds a gun on McCallister.
  • Crime:  Dick runs a red light; multiple attempted robberies (usually with a squirt gun, unbeknownst to the victims); Dick takes a “slushee” from a convenience store without paying for it.
  • Religion:  A woman says “I’ve been off the pipe for two years. Thank you, Jesus!” Gospel music plays on the soundtrack as the characters commit crimes.