Fun With Dick & Jane

2 stars


2nd March 2006

A little goofing off goes a long way. After years and years of clowning around and gurning relentlessly, the suits finally let Jim Carrey off the leash and allowed him to showcase his more traditional thespian talents as a reward; first in the Truman Show, and more recently, in Michel Gondry's wonderfully cerebral think-piece Eternal Sunshine. Having now proved he can flex his acting muscles as well as he can flex his comedic muscles, it seems a mite odd that the rubber-faced one has chosen such lightweight fare in Fun With Dick & Jane to herald his return to comedy, in which he's neither tested as an actor or given the green light to goof.

Dick (Carrey) is a straight-up kinda guy. He's got a great house in the suburbs, along with a moderately expensive car, friendly neighbours and a very respectable lawn. He's also blessed with a family, in the form of cheery wife Jane (Tea Leoni) and excitable kid Billy. Together they live a button-down life, by the book to the last word, where excitement comes in the form of mail order coupons and physical relations have to be pencilled in a good week beforehand ("Let's have sex... on Saturday!"). Everything for our affluent couple is going real swell - hell, Dick's even been given a promotion at work to GloboDyne vice president, which means Jane can afford to quit her unfulfilling job and spend more time with their child. The only problem is, the company CEO (an uncredited Alec Baldwin, who presumably didn't want another asshole boss on his resume) has been engaging in some dodgy deals, leaving the company floating down shit creek, with a paddle-less Dick in the firing line. Soon, as the company disintegrates before their eyes, Dick and Jane are forced to sell everything they own to make ends meet, and when there's nothing left to flog, they do what any couple starring in a remake of a 1977 Warren Beatty film would do - they turn to crime to pay the bills.

Here's the thing with Jim Carrey: the guy is clearly a natural comic, and has a God-given gift for physical comedy, there's never been any doubting that. Why then, has he accepted a role that barely sees him crack a smile, let alone go a little bit crazy? Sure, Dick might eventually learn to loosen up a little as he starts robbing cafes and Kwik-E-Marts, but the real Jim Carrey, the hurricane of physical activity we know and love is lost underneath the suit and the ski-mask. The only real moments of genuine hilarity are those which have clearly been ad-libbed by Carrey himself - doing the robot while he's hooked up to a voice-distorter during a robbery, for example - a fact which is doubly surprising when you learn of the involvement of screenwriter Judd Apatow, the man behind modern comedy classics such as Anchorman and The 40 Year Old Virgin. You might level such accusations at Fun With Dick & Jane's 12A rating (this leads to some rather-watered down situations which even the 1977 original would have had the chutzpah to tackle) but ultimately, a good script is a good script, regardless of the age of the audience. Given that director Dean Parisot has worked on TV classics like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Tick in the past, its shocking just how contrived and smug Fun With Dick & Jane can be at times.

Compared to Carrey, Tea Leoni was always going to have to work had to raise any laughs, and although her Jane is affable enough (the couple do display good chemistry together), the character is just too two-dimensional to leap off the screen. In fact, quite often she's barely involved at all, and when the couple decide to get their own back and rip off Baldwin's bank account, Jane is limited to a few simple tasks, while Dick is forced to do the donkey work himself. As far as wasted talent goes, it's not even close to amount of unused Carrey potential that's been left over, but it's a shame she wasn't given more of a meaty role to tackle.

Even with someone else in the lead role, Fun With Dick & Jane would still have been lacking in laughs, but with an animal like Carrey in the driving seat, it's an absolutely criminal waste of a star. The jokes are more miss than hit, with only rare flashes of classic Carrey raising a smile now and then - Christ, the entire film is set six years ago for no other reason than to set-up a desperately lame corporate gag, which is indicative of the depths the writers were willing to plumb for the most simple of chuckles. At just over 90 minutes long, Fun With Dick & Jane is largely forgettable fluff that not only fails to mine the rich seam of Carrey's comic potential but is guilty of missing a prime opportunity to send up the corporate industry in a meaningful and humourous way - all in all, it's an utterly pointless exercise in moviemaking and comes across as an entirely fruitless endeavour for all concerned. Fun? It's stretching the definition somewhat.

More:  Comedy
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