Fun with Dick and Jane

(2005) ** Pg-13
85 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Dean Parisot. Cast: Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins, Angie Harmon, Stacey Travis, Richard Burgi.

Fun with Dick and Jane, a remake of the George Segal-Jane Fonda comedy from 1977, starts out as a nifty satire, then turns ghastly for most of its running time. Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni play the new Dick and Jane, monikers chosen to make the films' ostensible heroes the John Does and Jane Roes of modern American life (popular reading textbooks about happy kids Dick and Jane were published between 1930 and 1965). On another level, "Dick" and "Jane" are the chosen ones of American suburbia entitled to fortune and, if not fame, at least popularity and social status.

Screenwriters Judd Apatow (writer-director of The 40 Year Old Virgin) and Nicholas Stoller (writer for Apatow's short-lived TV series Undeclared) make a go of it in an entertaining first act. Summoned to the exalted 51st floor, Dick spreads his "wings" in the elevator and croons "I Believe I Can Fly." Like Icarus, Dick flies too high—his bosses at the Globodyne Corporation have set him up as a patsy for an Enron-esque cut-and-run bankruptcy scam.

As Dick reps for Globodyne on cable TV's "Moneylife," the company's stock nosedives. Returning to work, Dick finds pandemonium: the CFO (Richard Jenkins) crouching behind a desk and the CEO (Alec Baldwin) absconding in a corporate helicopter. Dick can't believe it: "We followed the rules, and we got screwed. We ere goo people, and we got screwed."

Even as George W. Bush intones on TV, "We must never become a winner-take-all society," Dick reassures Jane, "We're fine. I'm a winner." Baldwin's Jack McCallister is meant to evoke Bush just as much as Ken Lay and his ilk—as Dick takes his nasty fall off the corporate ladder, McCallister's grinning and bird-hunting. Dick gasps, "Everybody's in hell—he's on vacation!"

But after this set-up, Apatow and Stoller lose interest, and director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) seems equally lost. So they punch the clock, setting up broadly silly situations for Carrey to get manic. As usual, it's difficult to tell if Carrey is giving a performance or an improv class, and Leoni gives another classy performance in a bad movie.

In the second act, Dick fails to provide for his family, eventually resorting to becoming a dayworker among illegal immigrants (note to Hollywood: not an especially funny subject). In a bitingly nasty joke that more satisfyingly makes Dick and Jane the targets, the parents have ignored their son so thoroughly that he speaks with the maid's Spanish accent.

Finally, Dick is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore (note "Gore/Liebermann 2000" billboard in the background). In true caveman fashion, Dick grabs the nearest club (a toy gun) and goes out to hunt and gather; we're progressive, though—the wife can come too. In the third act, Dick and Tea Leoni's Jane go all Ocean's 11 on us (cue Theodore Shapiro's cool jazz) as they try to exact financial revenge on Dick's old CEO Alec Baldwin.

The move marks a slight ethical improvement over their crime wave aimed at small businesses, but by implicitly siding with selfish maniacs (apparently morally superior to a selfish sane man), Parisot abandons any satirical vision the film had entertained.

Some "outrageous" laughs come in the form of dressing up the couple in costumes (Look at those wacky eyebrows! Hey, Carrey does Cher!), but as the movie wears on, with increasing shrillness and decreasing taste, you'll start to wonder why Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and their ilk (specially thanked in an ironic title card) should get to damage the culture all over again. Bottom line: don't see Dick run.

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