When true bankruptcy hits Dick and Jane Harper, I doubt they’d take it with as much levity and as many flippant shrugs as they do in Fun With Dick And Jane, a remake of the 1977 original featuring Jane Fonda and George Segal.
First of all, Dick and Jane are played by actors who have never tasted bankruptcy. They might have in their youth, but by now their accumulated wealth is so formidable that all memory of those horrid times would have been replaced with awards and — what’s that green thing called again? — oh that’s right, money.
Dick is played by Jim Carrey. I like Jim Carrey. He has a face that welcomes genuine sympathy. When his eyes well up with tears, you can feel it. You can feel what he feels. But a man of his talent seems lost on a movie like this. Dick sits on a plane that is neither here nor there. He’s not hysterical like Ace Ventura, nor is he all that sombre, as in The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. He’s a man lost in his own waywardness, and that’s not a very funny place to be.
His wife Jane, played by the ever-attractive Téa Leoni, is a travel agent who hates her job. No questions why. She quits after learning that Dick has just received the mother of all promotions at Globodyne, a company that’s not 100 miles removed from Enron in that it has distrustful employees, and nobody really knows what it does. This promotion plays like a ploy, and Dick becomes the spokesperson for Globodyne’s sudden and unexpected collapse. Turns out, its chiefs have skimmed money off the top in the form of bonds and poor investments, and now it’s all catching up with them and running them under.
At the head of the company is Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin in perfect slimy form), the CEO who expresses regret at his company’s implosion while vacationing in the scenic parts of America in full view of anyone and everyone who bothers to watch the news. Can the investigators — of whom the host of the local finance report show seems to be a part of — not see the wealth on display behind Jack’s mid-hunting interviews?
Baldwin is a master of the “good guy turned bad guy” routine. He plays up the laughter and friendly handshakes and then in swift strokes wipes them clean off in exchange for piercing scowls and dangerous underhanded one-liners. If he wasn’t acting, I suspect he’d be a scary man to be around.
He’s the only part of this movie that runs on all cylinders. Everyone else seems more interested in trying to make each other laugh. As poverty ravages the Harper household, they are forced to steal. At first Dick removes patches of grass from his neighbours’ lawns, golf courses, and at one point even a cemetery, to help make up for his own lawn’s repossession. But soon he advances to ripping off convenience stores and banks. This provides the story with the obligatory string of comedic scenes that require Carrey, in one way or another, to mess up and fumble in front of indifferent store owners. They just aren’t that funny. We’ve seen jokes like them before, in better movies, played out in better scenarios. Carrey is a great comedian, I’ll give him that, but in Fun With Dick And Jane he isn’t backed up by his director, Dean Parisot, who for the most part seems unsure on how to tackle the harrowing effects of poverty. It’s not a laughing matter. You can try to make it funny, sure, but don’t treat it as a joke. It won’t earn you many laughs.
Best Moment | Nope.
Worst Moment | Jim Carrey in drag. Not a pretty sight, even by drag standards.