See Dick. Dick (Jim Carrey) is an up and coming businessman on his way up the corporate ladder. See Jane. Jane (Tea Leoni) is a personal assistant to a complete jerk. When Dick finally gets that long-time-coming promotion, Jane is finally able to quit her job and spend more quality time with their son who has rapidly been learning to speak Spanish thanks to all the time he gets to spend with the family’s housekeeper. Unfortunately it turns out Dick’s promotion was just a ploy to make him a patsy as the CEO runs the company into quick bankruptcy. With their big jobs gone, Dick and Jane must find new ways to pay the bills as creditors threaten to take everything away from them and even repossess their lawn. Isn’t unemployment fun?
Fun with Dick and Jane shows the comedic side of those who have been devastated by events like Enron, events more inspirational to this comedy than the 1977 George Segal/Jane Fonda original film. The movie even goes so far as to thank those in charge of scandals like Enron in the end credits, attempting to give the comedic tale some poignancy it doesn’t quite reach. While Fun with Dick and Jane can be considered fun, it’s too outrageous to be considered anything close to real.
For instance, when Dick finally decides to search for a job below that VP level he feels he deserves, the first place he goes to is a Wal-Mart like business, greeting people as they enter. As if that’s not enough of an unrealistically dramatic change in the character, the business requires Dick greets every single customer as they walk in the door, to the point that Dick has to chase down people he’s missed. While we all have encountered that annoying greeter at the door of our local department store, the movie just takes things too far, to the point where they cease to really be funny and are just bizarre instead. Once Dick and Jane resort to thievery (the advertised plot of the movie that takes almost 2/3rds of the film to get to) they are fumbling amateurs who suddenly have access to high quality equipment and use lingo like they’ve been living the lives as thieves forever.
The annoying thing about Dick and Jane is that it could actually have been a pretty funny movie based on this premise. Unfortunately it doesn’t just use the base premise of the story, but resorts to outlandish setups for over the top results. This shouldn’t be too surprising considering the writing team consists of some of the minds behind other outlandish comedies such as The 40-Year Old Virgin and “Strangers with Candy”. For some reason going over the top worked for those comedies, perhaps because it was so necessary to make the stories work. Here less could have been so much more, but obviously the writers and director didn’t see it that way.
Most likely the outlandishness was decided upon in order to take advantage of Jim Carrey, who returns to his old-school ways with outrageous facial expressions and reactions. This too is a bummer, because Carrey’s career has evolved past these sorts of roles, although I guess you could argue that, since the film is set in the year 2000, Carry hadn’t evolved that far yet. The antics of this movie really are a step backwards for the actor who accomplished the great performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Majestic. They might even be a step backwards for the Carrey from Liar, Liar. Without Carrey this might have been a different movie altogether, perhaps even a better one, since director Dean Parisot wouldn’t have been locked into using Carrey’s malleable abilities and therefore limiting himself (although with Carrey carrying a producer credit, perhaps Parisot isn't completely to blame). Instead we’re stuck with the over the top Carrey, so far “out there” that the film even pays tribute to his work with a musical cue from Lemony Snickets at one point.
The supporting cast doesn’t offer Carrey much aid either. Parisot has taken one of the best character actors to ever grace a fictitious boardroom and given him a terrible trait in an effort to make his character stand out. Playing almost the opposite of his cool as a cucumber role from Elizabethtown is Alec Baldwin, an actor who should never be using a southern drawl, sounding frighteningly like our country’s President… if he had a deeper, huskier voice. Finally comes Carrey’s co-star, Tea Leoni. I’ve never been a fan of Leoni’s abilities and she doesn’t offer much to change my mind here. Leoni simply doesn’t have the level of talent necessary to take on Carrey’s comedic skills, even when he’s doing sub-par work. She is mediocre, which is fitting for this film since that’s a good word to describe it: mediocre.
Some people might find in Dick and Jane the advertised “fun”. Others will be more like me, able to squeeze out only a few good laughs in the movie’s thankfully short running time while wishing the final result lived up to the potential the advertisements promised. Everyone take note: over the top Carrey is best left in the past.