Fun with Dick and Jane

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The plot of this movie is timely all over again after the years between its 1977 original satire and today, thanks to the colossal collapse of Enron, WorldCom, and their ilk. It has a particular resonance to those of us who did OK during those growth years, but always hoped we would turn that corner into that mythical, inconceivable prosperity of the go-go Clinton era. Then (as painfully documented in Enron: the smartest guys in the room) Carrey’s seemingly unstoppable company drops dead midstride, and our greedy, consumptive stars are forced to pay their nanny in appliances. Pity is difficult, but Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni still manage somehow to bring it to the table.

It would be far funnier if we didn’t know how devastating those crashes were to the regular underling people who weren’t already in $600,000 homes. Instead of being a satire of the boom-time keeping up with the Joneses, it morphs into more of a “consumption is king” reaffirmation of that dangerous attitude.

Fun with Dick and Jane is generally trying harder to be an Enron revenge than being a wacky romp with two extremely talented comic actors, so it doesn’t get too political nor does it get excited about its updated premise. Alec Baldwin dusts of his Rich and Powerful Baddie persona from The Cooler and gives him a Crawford twang of insincerity, which works wonders for what otherwise could have been a two dimensional character.

Considering it takes a powerful female comedienne to share the screen with someone as large as Carrey, you would think director Dean Parisot would have taken the time to use Leoni as more than just The Wife. Having directed the extraordinarily funny Galaxy Quest (check it out again if you don’t remember) as well as Monk and Curb Your Enthusiasm, I thought Parisot would have had a walk in the park with these actors and subject matter.

Judd Apatow – can he do it without Steve Carrell writing too? He cowrote the screenplay with TV writer Nicholas Stoller, and the movie does kind of bop along in an episodic way, set up and pay off and set up and pay off, no significant obstacles and no real turns of fate. I don’t have a sense of a narrative arc, just a stop-start ride with an ending. Carrey maniac that I am, I didn’t get to see him take any specific path with his role, either super wacky guy or actor with heart. It was more of the kind of role that Steve Martin might turn down. The capers are fun, but no one really has their heart in it. Maybe they feel the implicit crassness of having Enron-type victims turn into criminals just so they can put in a pool. I have to admit, however, it is shot beautifully.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/21/05
Time in minutes 909
Director Dean Parisot
Studio Sony Pictures