Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fun with Dick and Jane

FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (Dean Parisot, 2005)

Dick and Jane Harper (Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni) are just like any other hardworking Americans. Jane holds a travel agency job that may not be all that fulfilling, but it helps pay the bills. Dick strives to get the promotion he’s wanted for so long. Then the day comes at Dick's mega-employer Globodyne when the amiable fellow, overlooked so many previous times, is promoted to Vice President of Communications. Flush with visions of wealth, Jane quits her job, and the couple treats themselves to some luxuries.

The success is short-lived, though. After all, in FUN WITH DICK AND JANE it’s the year 2000, and an examination of Globodyne’s economic health is as dire as that of scandal-plagued corporations Enron and Tyco. Unable to find employment, Dick and Jane lose everything. Even their lawn gets repossessed. Wiped out financially and emotionally, they unwittingly discover that turning to crime may be the solution to their problems.

FUN WITH DICK AND JANE is a furious comedy about corporate crime, but this strange mix of seething satire and the broadest of Carrey’s shtick fails to come together. Carrey shamelessly mugs to an inspirational R. Kelly song alongside jokes featuring Ralph Nader and referencing FAHRENHEIT 9/11. Alternating between lowbrow comedy and pointed political commentary is a bold strategy, but the combination results in a film neither dumb enough nor smart enough to work.

Dick and Jane become common criminals after a descent into despair and much hand wringing. Such moral dilemmas are worth exploring but not in the context of a movie that aims for silliness. FUN WITH DICK AND JANE’S halfhearted commitment to its central conceit—broke middle class workers become thieves—makes the characters seem more despicable than they’re supposed to be. Instead of a breezy caper movie, FUN WITH DICK AND JANE is an inner turmoil-filled downer that climaxes with a lame heist scene that manages to be simple and convoluted.

Grade: D

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