Fun With Dick and Jane

Movie Information

Genre: Ersatz Satirical Comedy
Director: Dean Parisot
Starring: Jim Carrey, Tea Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Gloria Garayua
Rated: PG-13

Like a piece of rancid gorgonzola cheese, Fun With Dick and Jane has oozed its way into theaters as part of the holiday festivities (I guess Columbia Pictures was out of lumps of coal for our stockings). This film may not be the worst of the week’s bevy of releases, but it’s clearly in the running.

I have no doubt that this witless remake of a not-all-that-hot 1977 movie that starred Jane Fonda and George Segal as a couple who take up crime when things get bad financially will make a fortune and will appeal to those who think Jim Carrey mugging for the camera is the height of comic creativity.

Somehow a battery of writers — only three of whom are credited (rumor has it there were several others, apparently with savvier agents) — convinced themselves that the original film could be not only updated, but made socially relevant by turning it into an indictment of Enron and the likes, with time out for a jab at Wal-Mart. As an idea, that’s not bad; in execution, it’s about as much fun as a root canal.

Everything about the film is badly judged — starting with the characters (I’m fascinated to see Manhola Dargis in The New York Times refer to folks with $600,000 houses and $150,000-a-year jobs as “middle class”). I’m really supposed to care about two people whose priorities are so out of whack that their young son knows more Spanish than English, thanks to spending all of his time with their housekeeper (newcomer Gloria Garayua)? That the kid mostly sounds like he’s doing a Cheech Marin impression is another matter, but then this is a movie where the height of hilarity is having the housekeeper say “Mr. Richard” so that it sounds like “Mr. Retard.”

The real problem, though, is that the satire is stale and more depressing than funny, while the caper aspect of the original has been dropped in favor of a feel-good scam that makes little to no sense. Add to this a lot of obvious — and badly done — post-production hacking and cutting (even trimmed to about 90 minutes, the film takes forever to even get to Dick and Jane’s life of crime). This may be the first film ever to have a gag set up in its trailer that didn’t make the final cut … but the payoff did (though it no longer makes sense). This film is only for people who think Carrey is a comedy god. Rated PG-13 for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional drug references.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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