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Fun with Dick and Jane

I’ve often found myself taking part in a friendly debate with a fellow movie-lover, the topic of which involves actors taking parts for seemingly no other reason than to receive a hefty paycheck. As an example, I believe it’s pretty disheartening to see actors like Kevin Bacon and Michael Clark Duncan promoting products like underwear and snack chips on television. My friend, acting as the counterpoint, argues an actor should take these offers because it helps them financially, allowing them to maintain their lifestyle until more artistically stimulating projects come along. In regards to Kevin Bacon, my fellow movie-goer cites The Woodsman as being one of these more prestigious projects.

Keeping this in mind, I have to ask: What in the world is Jim Carrey waiting for? How is the money he receives from insipid, by-the-book comedies like Bruce Almighty and Fun with Dick and Jane being used to fuel more creative impulses? Taking a look at some of his upcoming films on The Internet Movie Database, I found three in his schedule, two of which sound promising while the other makes the back of my eyes hurt. Number 23 is a mystery/thriller wherein a man finds a book which seems to be based entirely on his life and disturbingly ends with a murder. Believe It or Not sees Carrey playing the famous curiosity expert Robert Ripley as he searches for his next great discovery. Lastly, there is what I’m sure will be billed as a “raucous romp” called Used Guys, and in it Carrey will play what I have to assume will be a rubbery-faced goon who lives on a planet ruled by women. Along with his co-star Ben Stiller, Carrey is a “pleasure clone” who escapes his female rulers in order to find a male utopia called…Mantopia.

See, this is the kind of junk I hate to see Carrey throwing himself into, as it seems to me the guy is just way too old and far too talented to be whipping out the same old shtick we were watching in 1994 with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Using this as my transition (as this has to be one of the longest intros I’ve written so far), I will begin talking about Fun with Dick and Jane, which actually tops Bruce Almighty in its amount of comedic redundancy. It is a mashed, mangled mess of a movie, with no real through line and the limpest, most mainstream satire I’ve seen in a long time.

Dick and Jane is the kind of biting social commentary you would usually find on any episode of Mad TV, filled with jokes only an audience member with the smallest amount of knowledge about the world could find amusing. Alec Baldwin plays Jack McCallister, an obvious play on George W. Bush who abandons his gigantic corporation shortly after buying out all of its stock. The company goes under, and Dick (Carrey) loses his job while being blamed for the business’ corruption. This is the big plot point of the film, and after it passes, there’s almost nothing left for the script to provide in terms of a funny or even mildly amusing story. In vulgar terms, the film shoots its load with the supposedly clever Enron parody in the first half hour, and everything else is padding.

Slowly but surely the movie becomes a series of boring sketches, as we see Dick and his wife Jane (thanklessly played by Tea Leoni) lose all of their savings and are forced to sell their possessions. This leads into a tedious section of the movie where they try to settle into blue collar jobs, with Dick being hired at an obvious variant of Wal-Mart and Jane becoming an aerobics instructor at a local gym. I can’t tell you how sad it is to watch perfectly capable actors participating in such Z-grade Saturday Night Live material, as no amount of money can warrant Jim Carrey having laundry detergent thrown in his eyes by a sassy black woman.

Eventually the couple decides to take back from the community by robbing everyone in town, a development which makes little to no sense if you think about it at all. How in the world do Dick and Jane go from being dorky yuppies to first class criminals, complete with high tech burglary gear? I guess we’re not supposed to ask such questions, because before too long this subplot is abandoned as well, replacing it with one where our stars try to con Baldwin’s character out of his money as an act of revenge. It’s like Ocean’s Eleven meets…crap!

Luckily, or at least from the perspective of the filmmakers, Carrey is on the set, and we all know if you put a camera in front of him and ask for some zany antics he’ll pile them on until you run out of film. And this is just what happens, as we are made to watch way too many sequences of Carrey simply playing the role of Court Jester. He’s playing with light switches, making silly sound effects, referencing Mr. Roboto, sliding across floors like a ninja, and much, much more, all to my utter distaste. Again, this kind of manic behavior might have sold me in the fifth grade, but I’m really starting to worry about this guy getting trapped in his own type. Adam Sandler will be making gross-out comedies until he’s dead, but I’d like to think Carrey is a bit more expansive.

In any case, don’t see Fun with Dick and Jane if you’re expecting anything of value, since it is nothing more than a rushed hack-job with no sense of what makes a good film. You know how some writers advise their readers to “turn off their brains” before they watch certain features? Well I’m here to tell you right now that Dick will turn it off for you, so don’t waste the brain cells and go for something, anything else on the shelf when Movie Day rolls around.

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