- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I never saw the original “Fun With Dick and Jane,” a 1977 caper comedy starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as a husband and wife who turn to robbery when they can’t pay the bills, but its backdrop — Jimmy Carter-era stagflation and oil shocks — seems to make sense.

In the case of the recent remake, with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni in the title roles, not so much sense.

The movie has been retrofitted for the hiccup recession of a few years ago, judging from the prominence of Gore-Lieberman campaign signs in several scenes. To give it more resonance with a now mostly prosperous public, the filmmakers, including director Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) and writer Judd Apatow (“The 40 Year-Old Virgin”), satirize contemporary corporate scandals like Enron, Tyco International and WorldCom. (The former heads of those companies are “thanked” in the closing credits.)

Dick Harper (Mr. Carrey) works for a Southern California outfit called Globodyne. One fortuitous morning, he’s called up to the top floor (singing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” on the elevator, as only Jim Carrey can) and told he’s about to become the company’s vice president of communications. Dick considers the promotion “Honey,-you-can-quit-your-job” good news — and his wife, Jane Harper (Miss Leoni), promptly does quit her job.

Hold it, sport: Globodyne is on the brink of fiscal calamity, and Dick has been set up unwittingly for humiliation on live television. What’s worse, Chief Executive Officer Jack McAllister (Alec Baldwin, doing a vague Dubya imitation) is about to abscond with millions in siphoned-off pension funds.

Dick and Jane, who live in a prim, power-yuppie subdivision with a young son and full-time Hispanic nanny, are second-mortgaged up to their necks. All their savings are in Globodyne stock. And, like the mill towns of old, the local economy will suffer a macro hit as a result of Globodyne’s demise.

All this is by way of explaining how the affluent, upwardly mobile Harpers end up on skid row.

You don’t buy it, either? Well, it’s the holiday season; filmmakers are counting on mass eggnog consumption to expand your disbelief threshold.

The spectacle of, say, Mr. Carrey greeting customers at Kost Mart (the substitute du jour for evil Wal-Mart), and then cadging work with Hispanic day laborers, would be forgivable if it were at all funny. It’s not. Gag writing here is labored, and execution consistently flat. Miss Leoni seems particularly lame and shows little appetite — or aptitude — for physical comedy.

This is a strange, disappointing lapse for Mr. Carrey. It would have made sense for him to take on this role five, even 10 years ago — not after last year’s career-best performance in “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

The movie briefly picks up steam as Dick and Jane take to robbing banks, coffee shops and convenience stores in a series of cheesy disguises. But then it returns to the tepid, often cringe-worthy Saturday-morning-cartoon high jinks of the first act.

“Fun With Dick and Jane” fails on a basic laugh-meter level. Far less does it succeed as “How Enron Stole Christmas” social satire.

By the time this turkey is in the rearview mirror, it will likely rank as one of the most forgettable movies in the Jim Carrey canon.

*1/2

TITLE: “Fun With Dick and Jane”

RATING: PG-13 (Brief profanity; sexual humor; drug references)

CREDITS: Directed by Dean Parisot. Produced by Jim Carrey and Brian Grazer. Written by Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller and Peter Tolan. Cinematography by Jerzy Zielinski. Original music by Theodore Shapiro.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.sonypictures.com/ movies/funwithdickandjane

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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