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Dustin Putman

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Learn more about this film on IMDb!Fun with Dick and Jane  (2005)
2 Stars
Directed by Dean Parisot
Cast: Jim Carrey, Tea Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Michael Drozin, Gloria Garayua, Jeff Garlin, Angie Harmon, Richard Burgi, John Michael Higgins, Carlos Jacott, Maggie Rowe, Stephnie Weir, Timm Sharp, Clint Howard
2005 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for brief language, some sexual humor and drug references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, December 21, 2005.
A remake of the 1977 film starring George Segal and Jane Fonda, "Fun with Dick and Jane" stays true to its title by being more often than not just that—fun. A broad comedy lurking on the edge of being a sly satire about crooked big businesses and the American Dream gone awry, director Dean Parisot (1998's "Home Fries") and screenwriters Judd Appatow (2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"), Peter Tolan (2005's "Just Like Heaven") and Nicolas Stoller have some biting comments to say about the middle-class' never-ending strain toward economic success in a materialistic world—and how fast it all can be taken away—but are often so antsy to get to the next scene that they don't do the subject full justice. This leaves the picture more disposable than it could have been, but still a pleasant diversion.

Jim Carrey (2003's "Bruce Almighty") is in full over-the-top, mugging-for-the-camera mode, but brings such an eager-to-please energy to his performance that he makes it work even when his slapstick falls flat. He plays Dick Harper, a well-off businessman who is about to get a whole lot more well-off when it is inferred he is being promoted to vice president of communications for the Enron-inspired Globodyne Corporation. As fast as Jane (Tea Leoni) quits her job as a frazzled travel agent and settles in to be a stay-at-home mom living the good life, Globodyne's stocks collapse, the company goes under, and Dick is left hopelessly unemployed. As the months tick by without Dick finding any luck in the strained job market, the Harpers watch as everything they own is repossessed. When a notification of their impending eviction arrives in the mail, Dick and Jane decide to take extreme measures toward a society that has wronged them and become makeshift robbers.

Clocking in at a fast-paced 90 minutes including credits, "Fun with Dick and Jane" is so furious in its narrative, jumping from one comic set-piece to the next, that even when the jokes don't work the viewer can be assured something funny is coming up soon. Opting smartly to portray Dick and Jane as a happy, if overscheduled, couple, director Dean Parisot avoids the typical relationship conflicts in this type of film and concentrate solely on their struggles as a suburban couple who will do whatever is necessary to maintain the image of economic affluence to their showy neighbors. In doing this, they seize the opportunity to finally get back at the thieving CEO of Globodyne, Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin), who bankrupted the company and got off scott-free.

As the title couple, Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni (2004's "Spanglish") make for an unlikely pair who work extremely well off each other. Carrey is Carrey, although he does wisely reign things in at key points so that the decidedly calamitous problems Dick faces holds a reality to them. As for Leoni, she is better and looser than expected, stealing some scenes from Carrey—this is difficult to do—and willing to look silly for a laugh. This is certainly true when Jane participates out of desperation in a scientific test that pays fourteen dollars and suffers a negative reaction to the drugs, which give her duck lips.

Both Carrey and Leoni also do a good job of exhibiting the adrenaline rush that comes with (amateurishly) robbing stores, reigniting the passion in their marriage and giving them lots of opportunities to don out-there disguises. Carrey as Cher and Leoni as Sonny Bono is comic gold even if said scene wastes the possibilities of these personas. Also, it is important to mention that though money—and convenience store slushies—is stolen, they do not use loaded guns or harm any bystanders. This is key in keeping them likable during their crime spree, which, in an extreme sort of way, seems justified.

As mentioned, "Fun with Dick and Jane" moves at a nice clip; that, mixed with the two lead actors, keeps the vitality of the premise alive even when the script (or editing thereof) is of a slipshod nature. The most novel running joke that Dick and Jane's young son, Billy (Aaron Michael Drozin), speaks with a Spanish accent because he has been so heavily raised by the foreign nanny is hilarious, but their negligible parenting skills is a subject that should have been raised, but isn't. It is also never adequately explained how Dick and Jane are able to allude capture when their heists get larger in scale. By the looks of this film, any person can just drive their car through the storefront window of a jewelry store, make off with a loot and have no trouble getting away with nary a police car in the premises.

In this respect, and many others, "Fun with Dick and Jane" is ridiculous, but gleefully so, and its airy tone proves an amiable respite to all the more serious, demanding cinematic fare out there during the end-of-the-year award season. This isn't the pinnacle of comedy, to be sure—a recurring gag involving an electric dog collar is unfunny the first time and painfully old the third—but there is a sense of joy in the performances that is infectious to behold. "Fun with Dick and Jane" is a turn-your-brain-off-at-the-door movie, but there is a place for that when it is done well and avoids pandering to the lowest common denominator. This one doesn't. As a result, the film is a fairly entertaining, lightweight way to spend an hour and a half.
© 2005 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman