Fun With Dick and Jane

Living the comfortable suburban life, Dick (Jim Carrey) and Jane (Tea Leoni) are facing a rosy future when Dick gets a promotion at his corporate job. Sadly, the job only lasts a day, when his boss (Alec Baldwin) takes the massive company down with him in a scandal that sends all the employees to the poor house. Unable to find suitable work, and faced with losing all their belongings, Dick and Jane turn to armed robbery to pay their bills, where they find satisfaction sticking it back to society, and renewed vigor in their drab unemployed lives.

As he matures into a comic legend, Jim Carrey has been awfully careful where he lays his funny. “Fun with Dick and Jane” is the second comedy from Carrey in recent memory in which he wants to tickle the funny bone and, at the same time, have the audience meditate on some serious issues. The blend of drama and comedy slammed the breaks on the good times found in “Bruce Almighty;” while “Jane” is a far sillier film, it does feature Carrey trying to be Ace Ventura and Tom Hanks all at once. For Carrey, I’m not sure that mixture of pathos and pratfalls is ever going to work the way he dreams it will.

“Jane” is a remake of the 1977 comedy, starring George Segal and Jane Fonda. The update removes the 70s-era trimmings of yuppie aspirations, to a Clinton-era, Starbucks-n-Enron world (the film is set in 2000). The modifications do give the new “Jane” a fresh purpose, but will audiences pay to see a depressing snapshot of their own livesr That’s where Carrey comes in, and he’s in a particularly sunny mood for this film. The screenplay only takes the premise so far, so it’s up to Carrey (who also produces) to add the seasoning. Though hardly inspired work, Carrey does his best adding jokes and quirks constantly to keep the material funny and fluffy, when director Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) appears perplexed on how to arrange the material in a straight line.

“Jane” mines Carrey’s gifts for physical comedy well, and his chemistry with Tea Leoni gives the picture a strong matrimonial tie to it that’s believable. The acting team does a convincing job selling their dire financial straights and unemployed aggravation, making the leap to armed robbery not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds. Once there through, Parisot gets a little too grabby with the silliness, dressing up Dick and Jane in pop culture disguises (The Blues Brothers, Sonny & Cher) in a bid for wackiness that takes viewers right out of the film and into an “SNL” sketch. Better ideas, such as Dick’s accidental Mexican deportation, his violent attempts at greeting at the local Wal-Mart stand-in, and Jane’s volunteering for cosmetic testing are much funnier, and stay within the world that Parisot is trying to supervise.

Eventually, “Jane” becomes this odd Enron-fueled revenge film, where our title characters act as audience surrogates and try to rewrite history by delivering a happy ending to those that lost everything. An original twist, I will admit that, but it fails to bring the comedy to a boil. “Fun with Dick and Jane” isn’t a taxing motion picture, and provides no-frills entertainment to those easy to please. The film coasts on Carrey’s enthusiasm alone and without him, I can only imagine how lackluster this remake would be.

Rating: B
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