Fun with Dick & Jane (2005)


   I am old enough to recall the original FUN WITH DICK & JANE, a 1977 comedy that co-starred
George Segal and Jane Fonda as a married couple living the American dream who suddenly discover some
bitter realities. The film was very much of its time, a reaction to the inflation scares of the mid-1970s, the
malaise that had settled across America. Two years earlier, New York City had faced bankruptcy and the
Vietnam conflict had ended badly. Audiences were looking to laugh and the pairing of Segal (who was then
starring in a string of box-office comedies) with Oscar-winner Fonda was inspired. In fact, their chemistry
helped to elevate the film and carry its vaguely unpleasant concept. In many ways, the film anticipated the
Yuppie mentality and downsizing trend of the 80s.

   Fast forward nearly thirty years and you have the inevitable remake, this time pairing Jim Carrey and
Téa Leoni in the title roles. The timeframe of the film has been moved back five years, before the advent
of corporate scandals. Dick Harper (Carrey) is a mid-level officer for a global conglomerate run by Jack
McCallister (Alec Baldwin). He’s appointed as vice president of communications and makes a disastrous
appearance on a CNN-like TV program just as the company goes belly up. His wife Jane (Leoni) decides
to quit her job at a travel agency in order to spend more time with the couple’s precocious son. Now with
Dick out of work and unable to find another job, the couple is faced with selling off their possessions in
order to survive. Pushed to the limit, Dick decides to turn to robbery.

   Screenwriters Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller do attempt to add to the concepts in the original.
Their intent seems to be to create a satire of corporate greed and the scandals that have become almost
de rigueur for American businesses. While they do borrow some jokes from the original, they create more
modern situations, such as the cutthroat competition to land a new job.

   The performers seem to be having a good time under Dean Parisot’s direction, but there just isn’t
any chemistry between Carrey and Leoni. Carrey reins in some of shenanigans so this character is more
grounded than some of his former screen incarnations. He does a creditable job, but it’s not among his
more memorable work.

   Admittedly, I don’t get all the praise for Leoni. Ever since she made her debut in TV sitcoms, critics
have been falling over themselves to anoint her as the “new Lucille Ball.” With the exception of
THE
FAMILY MAN
, I have not been too impressed with her onscreen work, and the streak continues here.
She and Carrey appear to have come in from different movies and the scenes they share are not terribly
convincing.

   Alec Baldwin once again is cast in a variation of the ruthless businessman he has played to better
effect in
THE AVIATOR (and even ELIZABETHTOWN, for that matter).

   FUN WITH DICK & JANE may appeal to some audience members unfamiliar with the original
and looking for a diversion from the more serious Oscar-bait fare that is playing at the mega-plexes.
It’s an okay movie that hits its satirical marks as often as it misses.




                           Rating:                        C-
                           MPAA Rating:            PG-13 for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional
                                                                        humorous drug references.
                           Running time:               90 mins.
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.