Fun With Dick And Jane Review
Dick (Jim Carrey) and Jane (Téa Leoni) are a nice suburbanite couple living beyond their means in an expensive corner of California. To pay the bills, they both work like slaves at their white-collar jobs, putting in such long hours that their son has developed a Spanish accent from all the time he's spent with the maid. All that's about to change - Dick has just been promoted to vice president in charge of communications at Globodyne, a monolithic corporation run by grinning Texan entrepreneur Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin). Dick's new salary is so high that Jane quits her job and the couple celebrate by putting down a deposit on a jacuzzi.
Unknown to Dick, Globodyne has been cooking the books for years, it can't get away with it for much longer and the new communications VP is being set up to take the fall. When the stock finally goes into meltdown, Dick is live on national TV stating that the company has never been healthier.
Along with every other employee, Dick's now out of work and at the mercy of a dry job market. After three months of fruitless interviewing, Dick is reduced to looking for casual labour on street corners with Mexican immigrants. Meanwhile, back home, the electricity has been cut off and the lawn has been repossessed. It's too much to bear. The former executive snaps and decides that if he can't pay the bills the honest way, he'll try other alternatives. Armed with his son's water pistol, he embarks on a string of robberies, his concerned wife acting as his partner and getaway driver.
Fun With Dick And Jane is a remake of a largely forgotten 1977 comedy which starred George Segal and Jane Fonda as the suburbanite bandits. That film was intended as a satire of the "me" generation of the seventies. The new version, directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), is less focused. It wants to be three different things: a remake, a topical satire on corporate wrongdoing and a Jim Carrey vehicle.
Unfortunately these different ambitions trip each other up, creating an an episodic structure and a inconsistency of tone. It wobbles from satire to pathos, to farce, to an ending out of a caper movie. The resulting mishmash doesn't make for an entirely unentertaining night out - there's enough good material to support the 90 minute running time - but the filmmakers should have made up their minds what they wanted to do. A more pointed satire would have been more effective and a wilder farce would have been funnier.
The corporate satire element is clever at times and obvious at others. The scene in which Globodyne stock plummets during Dick's first TV appearance is a gem but it's a rare one. Rather than find anything original to say about corporations, Fun With Dick And Jane pins the blame for the Globodyne scandal on a corrupt CEO, which makes the film about as incisive an attack on corporate culture as The Secret Of My Success.
Topical references are slipped in with the subtlety of a power cut. Globodyne is blatantly based on Enron but in case we don't get it, the company is name-dropped in the closing scene and then cited in the closing credits. The movie is like an insecure comedian explaining his jokes. People are always saying Hollywood is dumb but I think the problem is more that Hollywood is patronising. It doesn't trust moviegoers to understand anything too smart or to accept anything too subversive.
As tame as it is, the attack on corporations draws fire away from the real target of Fun With Dick And Jane, which is materialistic suburbanites living on easy credit. The story's message has more resonance than ever in a time when half the adverts on TV promise to consolidate our debts into one affordable monthly payment. By redirecting the blame up the ladder, the remake lets Dick and Jane off the hook - they're portrayed as nice folk who were let down by the system. There's little criticism of them or their lifestyle. The Spanish-accented son is a clever touch but nothing is done with it. The kid's barely in the film.
The robberies are played purely for laughs: it's Jim Carrey in manic mode robbing people. Who would mind being robbed by Jim Carrey? The star does get some laughs in these scenes and in others, like when he sings "I Believe I Can Fly" on the way to his promotion, but as a Carrey vehicle this is strictly second tier. As in Bruce Almighty, the comedian is straight-jacketed by having to play a character who's basically a normal guy. He's at his funniest when he's completely unleashed as he was in The Mask and Liar Liar.
Téa Leoni does some very nice straight (wo)man work. She was very good opposite Adam Sandler in Spanglish last year too, although that film was even further off the mark than this one. Alec Baldwin is also very funny as the firm's blasé chief executive, who is uncannily reminiscent of a certain world leader. He gives the game away when he makes a statement about Globodyne while on a hunting trip, then tells the camera crew, "Now watch this shot".