Fun with Dick and Jane / Dustin Rowles
Film Reviews | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()
So listen, Jim Carrey: I haven’t really enjoyed you in a comic role since your Fire Marshall Bill days, but I totally appreciate that, since 1994, you are singularly responsible for ushering in a wealth of comedies that appeal to 12-year-old boys with a weird fascination for excrement humor. Without you, of course, the Farrelly Brothers would probably be writing episodes of “Yes, Dear,” instead of ruining perfectly good sports memoirs or directing criminally shittastic movies about mentally retarded people; and I must commend you for breaking the ground on which comic geniuses like Rob Schneider can thrive. Indeed, gratitude and millions of dollars in royalty checks is owed to you for making a kick in the junk the featured selling point for 30 percent of any given slate of new releases.
Still, I can forgive you for all of that because, despite your muggish efforts in Batman Forever, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Mask, you are still one of the better dramatic actors working in Hollywood today. You were phenomenal in The Truman Show, turned in an incredible performance as Andy Kaufman, injected underappreciated, old fashion Capra-corn into The Majestic, and abso-fucking-lutely floored me in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So why, I ask, must a 43-year-old man with considerable acting abilities continue to beat us about the head and face with insufferable face contorting, bullshit-mugging, spastic Jim-Carrey shtick? If it was ever funny in the first place, it’s not anymore, man. Leave it behind you. Move on. Don’t do to your career what Robin Williams did, taking one too many Patch Adams roles and then spending the next 10 years doing unseen films in the indie circuit in a misguided effort to resurrect what was once one of the more successful careers in Hollywood. Seriously, Mr. Carrey, leave the shitty self-abusing comedic roles to someone who can’t do anything else but shitty, self-abusing comedic roles. Ben Stiller, for instance. You’re better than Bruce Almighty, and you’re sure as hell better than Fun with Dick and Jane.
So: Fun with Dick and Jane. Here’s the premise: Set in 2001, Dick (Carrey) and Jane Harper (Tea Leoni) live in one of those Tim Burton-esque suburban neighborhoods with a meticulous lawn and a Hispanic maid because, apparently, Spanish-speaking maids provide a wealth of illegal immigrant humor just waiting to be mined by a writer (the normally brilliant Judd Apatow) with a strong nose for the cheap, obvious humor. Dick works as a midlevel corporate drone for Globodyn, a nondescript Enron/Worldcom type of corporation, where he is elevated to VP of Communications just in time to take the public relations fall for the company when it goes bankrupt, leaving its employees with zilch as its CEO Jack McAllister (a southern-fried Alec Baldwin) helicopters to some tropical get-away.
The film then takes the next 45 minutes or so tracking Dick and Jane’s overlong trip to destitute street; they lose their BMW, their plasma TV, their lawn, and, apparently, most of the humor Fun with Dick and Jane should’ve provided. For a movie like this — built upon a simple, inspired premise (taken from the 1977 original) — most of the fun is in watching a Starbuckian couple lose everything they have in short shrift and then get on with a series of comical suburban-yuppie heists (as illustrated in the previews) before, alas! their home is returned to its former condition in all its “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” glory. Unfortunately, Fun with Dick and Jane spends too much of the movie getting to the point where Dick and Jane must resort to crime to pay their mortgage, and then dismisses the majority of the heists the movie was built around in a simple musical, madcap-free montage complete with Bill and Hillary masks and Sonny and Cher costumes. (See what I mean about cheap, obvious humor?)
Fun with Dick and Jane isn’t the worst movie to come out this holiday season, which is sort of a shame, because at least then I’d feel justified in spending time away from the Christmas tree to review it. While it certainly had the potential for subversive satire, it lacks the intelligence; instead, it’s mostly just a bland throwaway comedy that warrants little more verbiage than an in-flight magazine will ultimately provide.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.