Fun with Dick and Jane

(Dean Parisot, USA, 2005)


Although this film is set only five years previously, its credit sequences and production design leave us in no doubt as to the era that provided the main influence.

Rows of identical skyscrapers, cars, desks and suited workers evoke the mentality of the burgeoning white collar world of the 1950s – with the ecstasy of Dick Harper (Jim Carrey), when he is invited to visit the Big Bosses on the top floor, echoing all those old, American, "How to Succeed in Business"-type tales of getting the key to the executive washroom.

In its strident comic tone, however, Fun with Dick and Jane owes just as much to a cycle of films from the ’70s – indeed, the original version of this film hails from 1977. It is hard, when gazing upon Carrey’s desperate grimace and frantic body language, to not recall Jack Lemmon in movies of that era about middle class couples suddenly facing economic retrenchment in a heartless big city.

This remake takes quite a while to reach its one novel twist: when Dick and Jane (Téa Leoni) realise they would be better off robbing banks and convenience stores rather than trying to win their way back into the rat race.

The fact that the film then desperately tries to scramble its way back to a wholesome happy ending shows what a poor grasp it has on its material.

Echoes of several recent films – Leoni’s role as the hyper-neurotic housewife in Spanglish (2004), Alec Baldwin again playing the hateful corporate head as he did in Elizabethtown (2005) – do not ameliorate the general murk.

There are good people involved in this project (co-writer Judd Apatow, who made the underrated The 40 Year Old Virgin  [2005], and Dean Parisot, director of the hilarious Star Trek spoof Galaxy Quest [1999]), but their talents are squandered, along with those of the gifted Carrey.

By the time Fun with Dick and Jane tries to exploit the contemporary reference to Enron and other financial crises, all opportunity for subversive irony has been lost.

MORE Parisot: Bill & Ted Face the Music

MORE Carrey: The Cable Guy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Truman Show, Batman Forever, Man on the Moon, Liar Liar

© Adrian Martin December 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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