Fun With Dick and Jane
Hollywood continues with the
unapologetic slash and burn policy of taking favorite movies from my
childhood, needlessly remaking them and turning them into worthless,
unwatchable crap. The 1977 comedy this travesty was based on was
actually fantastic – a smart and funny satire of inflation, unemployment
and corporate greed. A goof on the old Dick and Jane children's
books, the movie toys with the idea of what will happen when those eternal
children finally grow up and face real life. Starring George Segal as corporate exec Dick and
Jane Fonda as his trophy wife Jane, when Dick loses
his job in a series of lay-offs, eventually the couple must turn to crime.
Ed McMahon plays Dick's slimy and eternally sloshed ex-boss and eventual target in
It seems like fertile
ground to revisit in the modern economy: especially in the age of banker
and the shifting financial landscape over the past few decades. The people behind this remake
actually did make one smart decision, trying to up the ante on
corporate scum to the post-Enron world. Too bad the story was
otherwise diluted to take all of the intelligent satire off the table, and
turning it into... well... just another bad Jim
Dick, as played by Carrey,
is a mincing, moronic, butt-kissing jackass. You can see why he would
be used as a patsy – though you will have no idea whatsoever how he got his
job in the first place. In this role, every one of Carrey's annoying
bad habits is turned up to hyperdrive (though, thankfully he does not talk
with his ass.) Carrey can sometimes act, and apparently does know the
difference between a character and a caricature – just look at Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Man on the Moon – but here he
falls back into all his extremely stupid stunts and reminds me, once again,
why I can't stand most movies he is in.
Téa Leoni is certainly a lot
more sympathetic as Jane, but she is playing essentially the same
half-sweetheart, half-bitch role that she has played in nearly everything
she has done in recent years. (The role was originally intended for
Cameron Diaz, who, wisely, passed on it.) Nicely modulated corporate
sleaze supporting performances by Alec Baldwin and Richard Jenkins (Six
Feet Under) are completely wasted in a film which exists only to have
Carrey mug for the camera and melt down in public.
For a movie which claims to
be about the little guy getting back at corporate greed, Fun With Dick
and Jane certainly tries to have it both ways. The robberies which
Dick and Jane commit to return to opulence all seem to side the couple more
with the robber barons of industry – they mostly knock off small
businesses. The original, a much savvier and more thoughtful film, had
Dick and Jane mostly ripping off huge, soulless corporate entities – loan
companies, huge chain stores, corrupt televangelists, the phone company and
the like. Here they are robbing coffee shops, Japanese restaurants,
mini-markets and even individuals on the street. Why do Dick and Jane
have more right to that money than the hard-working people who they
victimize? Because they feel a sense of entitlement. Hmmm...
that sounds like the execs at a certain fallen energy company I know.
Because of this, the
feel-good change in the film's finale rings hollow. In a supposed act
of philanthropy Dick and Jane rob the evil exec and return the money to the
victimized workers (rather than the original 1977 ending where Dick and Jane
apparently kept the corporate slush fund.). This act of charity and
largess is so out of keeping with everything we've seen of the couple so far
that it is hard to believe and hard to digest.
Therefore, at the end of the
new movie when the filmmakers thank a series of execs from corrupt companies
like Enron, Tyco and Worldcom, it seems rather disingenuous.
They are trying to condemn the big bad industrial guys when they are doing
the exact same thing – stealing as much money as they can get from every
dumb schmuck who buys a ticket. The completely ignored expectation of being entertained
makes Fun With Dick and Jane the movie equivalent of a junk bond.
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Posted: December 29, 2005.