½*/**** Image B Sound A- Extras B
starring Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Alec Baldwin, Richard Jenkins
screenplay by Judd Apatow & Nicholas Stoller
directed by Dean Parisot
by Walter Chaw Dean Parisot's remake of Ted Kotcheff's 1977 Fun with Dick and Jane is simultaneously lifeless and desperate, a collection of horrid eleventh-hour edits that result in jokes without punchlines and Carrey's old physical-comedy riffs trotted out in the service of a half-assed redux of a half-assed original. The one nod to freshening up the original's full-frontal assault on capitalism as a means towards happiness (a satirical slot machine tugged to better effect by the act and allure of playing "The Sims") is that it's set in the year 2000 and deals with corporate malfeasance of the kind most conspicuously indulged in by Enron. (In case you don't get that, the last rimshot of the film is taken at Enron's expense, while the first closing credit is a "special thanks" to Ken Lay and his lieutenants.) The fictional big bad fiscal wolf of the piece is Globodyne, presided over by Jack McAllister (Alec Baldwin, in his second corporate bigwig turn after Elizabethtown), a southerner mainly because "southerner" is one of the last cultural groups (along with, say, Asians and gays) you can mock without much fear of backlash. On the day before it's revealed that "Big Jack" has stripped the corporate coffers (including pensions), Dick (Carrey) is promoted to VP of something or another, inspiring wife Jane (Leoni) to quit her job and pushing Dick before the cameras on some Lou Dobbs's "Moneyline" show, where he discovers, in a very public way, that his steed is a paper tiger.
The joke being set-up here is identical to one in Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl wherein the Ben Affleck character so befouls his own waters that his later attempts to find a job earn him false hope in an executive only interested in mocking him further and revealing that his name has become a shorthand for failure. In Fun with Dick and Jane, this means that Dick's nom de boner is "pulling a Dick," which is sort of funny but made less so by a script so witless that it actually misses the scatological implications of the gag. It's true--the only fun that Fun with Dick and Jane ever has with Dick's name is when his noble savage housekeeper Blanca (Gloria Garayua), speaking with what sounds like a Castilian accent, pronounces "Richard" like "r*tard." I don't think that this is taking the high ground. In fact, between its astonishingly insensitive portrayals of illegal immigrants and servants and the creation of a phantom child who's around just long enough to speak in a revolting Mexican accent (entirely unlike his housekeeper/nanny's yet suspiciously like Cheech Marin's circa The Corsican Brothers), the film strikes me as thinking it's scoring points against the virulence of classism and corporate groupthink while indulging in it in as clumsy and broad a way possible. At any rate, with Dick and Jane both unemployed and living in a $600,000 house that's now worth a hundred-and-fifty grand less than what they owe on it, they sell all their stuff, have their lawn repossessed, and take showers under the neighbour's sprinklers. Soon--well, actually, it takes an excruciatingly long time to get there--they decide to start robbing banks and convenience stores to maintain their standard of living.
There might be a movie there, I guess, and with the economy still pretty bleak despite contrary pronouncements, it has a chance to be topical--but Fun with Dick and Jane is just an opportunity for Carrey to be better than the material. It's dress-up time as he and Leoni (who exudes enough warmth for several pictures) go as cross-gendered Sonny & Cher to rob a car dealership and body dimorphism time (see also: Hitch) when Dick is punched in the face and Jane volunteers herself for medical experimentation. None of this is the slightest bit funny, but you do get the feeling that there's so much useless footage floating around this troubled production that Parisot and co. decided to plug as much effluvium as possible into a heist montage.
The less said about how an old Negro spiritual is used on the soundtrack, the better--it's less the feckless racism that nettles about the piece, after all, than the fact that it's so incoherent, you actually feel sort of insulted that the filmmakers think little enough of you to release it in this condition. It's like inviting people over for dinner and slapping a handful of frozen tater tots on a paper plate in front of them after an hour of puttering around and telling boring stories that don't go anywhere. Consider the subplot of Dick's jealousy over a neighbour's top-of-the-line Mercedes and how this leads him to use the Mercedes in a jewellery heist: there's no payoff to the car abuse, not even a reaction shot when the Mercedes owner discovers his baby's been trashed. Consider, too, the third-act plot point of Dick getting indicted on some charge or another that likewise leads nowhere except to the mind-numbing resolution of Dick and Jane somehow winning back the pensions of the former employees of the evil empire. It's the terms of the Revolution as written by Marie Antoinette: if you think this is what cunning social satire looks like, you're part of the problem. Start greasing that guillotine. Originally published: December 21, 2005.
by Bill Chambers Sony presents the 2005 remake of Fun with Dick and Jane on a DVD containing 2.43:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen transfers of the film plus a respectable number of extra features. Even though the movie is only 90 minutes long, cramming two versions of it onto one side of a dual-layer disc seems to greatly compromise the integrity of the image, as it simply doesn't sport the lustre a $100M production should. Maybe it didn't in theatres, either, but detail could nevertheless be stronger, and I suspect DVNR is the true culprit, applied for no other reason than to keep the bitrate down. Note that the picture was shot in Super35, and while the full-frame option offers more vertical information, it's heavily cropped on the horizontal edges of the frame. The accompanying Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is very loud but, in typical comedy fashion, not especially intricate or immersive; still, start things off at a volume below reference level. On another track, find a chatty commentary with director Dean Parisot and screenwriters Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller that initially has you wondering whether their yakker somehow got switched with one for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. It didn't occur to me 'til it was over just how evasive they all are: I think they refer to the onscreen action, like, a half-dozen times (it's mostly used to spark debate, as in a lengthy tangent about the corrupting influence of Bill Clinton), which is probably in everyone's best interest. Particularly entertaining is a non sequitur in which the three participants try to trump each other's most embarrassing celebrity encounter; the Judge Reinhold story--Stoller's, I think--wins out, if you ask me, though I have a few of my own that could possibly challenge it.
A section of six deleted scenes with no play-all function predictably features more footage of Angie Harmon (who's so bizarrely marginalized for such a familiar face in the final cut) and concludes with a robbery set-piece that sees Jim Carrey facing off against an ancient security guard (The Shawshank Redemption's James Whitmore) in a toy store. I gather the abundance of slapstick in this sequence violated the nonexistent 'reality' of the piece trumpeted once or twice in the aforementioned commentary, but since it's unhinged in that Ace Ventura way--in a pitch-perfect homage to Big, Whitmore bangs out "Frère Jacques" on a giant piano using Carrey's face--that made Carrey a star in the first place, I'm convinced that leaving it in would've exponentially improved the film's box-office take. I dare call it a return to form for the actor. (For what it's worth, these elisions are presented full-gate, meaning you'll notice boom mikes and matte boxes aplenty.) Carrey likewise dominates a 3-minute gag reel and a batch of "Press Junket Highlights" (4 mins.) that should've ended with a kidding-on-the-square Carrey asking an unidentified interviewer, "This is done? I don't have to be full of shit anymore?", but actually cuts from there to an obviously-rehearsed bit where he and Téa Leoni maul each other. Trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Click, The Benchwarmers, Marie Antoinette, Rent, The Legend of Zorro, The Fog (2005), Into the Blue, Spanglish, Memoirs of a Geisha, "The Ultimate James Bond Collection", and The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold round out the platter, the previews for Click, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Benchwarmers cuing up on startup. Originally published: April 3, 2006.