Fun With Dick and Jane reminds me of the 1982 film Pieces. No, Jim Carrey doesn’t go around cutting up women to create a composite girl (although if that had been the plot I would surely have liked the film better). Rather, the movie feels like it’s been cobbled together from all over the place and there’s no coherence within it.
Fun is a remake of a 1977 film starring Jane Fonda and George Segal as suburban bank robbers. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t compare, but it’s obvious some things have been changed – the movie takes place in the year 2000, against the backdrop of the Bush/Gore election and the beginnings of corporate meltdowns a la Enron and Worldcom. Carrey is some schmoe at some big corporation who suddenly gets himself promoted to VP of communications. He convinces his wife that they’ve hit the big time and that she should quit her job.
It turns out he’s just a patsy – he’s been hired the day before everything crumbles at his company from gross mismanagement and corruption (it happens live while he’s on a financial show, inexplicably also featuring Ralph Nader). Soon the company, along with his pension and everything, is gone. Things get bad for the couple in a sequence that stretches out far too long, and then they turn to armed robbery.
It turns out that the armed robbery stuff is just a blip on the film’s radar, though. Most of the movie is spent building up to that, and then once they begin doing it the movie turns its focus to them getting revenge on Alec Baldwin, once again playing the CEO of a huge company this year. Along the way the movie keeps stopping for what’s not so much scenes as sketches, segments that let Jim Carrey do his “thing.”
That’s a big problem, and not just because I don’t find Carrey’s schtick that funny. The role of Dick should have been played by Ben Stiller, some kind of everyman actor. Carrey is naturally anarchic, even when he’s still employed. The idea of him sliding into robbery isn’t that far fetched from the beginning – to me it’s the comedic equivalent of casting Nicholson in The Shining. Who didn’t see that ax business coming?
Tea Leoni shows that she belongs on TV as she overacts throughout the film. Maybe she felt the need to keep herself visible – the fact that the movie is called Fun With Dick and Jane seems silly as it’s really only interested in Dick.
There are some funny moments along the way, but they’re only moments. They don’t come together like a feature length comedy needs. And they’re far too sporadic – Fun With Dick and Jane is really interested in having something to say, and it can’t decide if it’s completely wacky or not. I imagine that there’s an early script for this thing that plays as much more stripped down, but once you hire Jim Carrey you’re stuck with a completely unbelievable scene where he gets deported (although to be fair that scene features the really inspired pay-off to a lame running gag about the couple’s son speaking Spanish).
As the film jerked around, trying to figure out what it was about, I found myself more and more fascinated with it in an almost scientific fashion. Fun With Dick and Jane had massive rewrites and reshoots – by some estimations more than a third of the film was reshot. Imagine giving all that material to film school students and seeing what becomes of it? Whatever it is would be much more interesting than the flattened jumble that’s in theaters.