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'Dick & Jane's' real crime is wasting a good premise

December 21, 2005|Kenneth Turan | Times Staff Writer

"Fun With Dick & Jane" plays like the setup for a movie that never materializes. It has all the elements for a successful comedy, but once the premise is presented, the film doesn't know how to deliver on its promise. That doesn't mean there is no fun in "Fun." With gifted professionals like Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni in the starring roles, a script co-written by Judd Apatow ("The 40 Year-Old Virgin") and direction by Dean Parisot ("Galaxy Quest"), it would have to have amusing moments, and it does.

But although a lot of attention has clearly gone into making those small moments funny, no one has thought to give "Dick & Jane" any big ones. Instead of building on them, the film's incidents simply follow one another before culminating in a resolution that is both over-complicated and underdeveloped.

The time is certainly appropriate for a remake of the 1977 Jane Fonda-George Segal vehicle about well-off people resorting to a life of crime when they can't make those pesky ends meet. And the new "Dick & Jane" gets a lot of mileage out of being set in our current age of corporate excess. Disgraced executives at places like Enron and Tyco are given prominent "special thanks" in the closing credits, and much of what happens to high-flying corporation Globodyne seems patterned on the Enron imbroglio.

Before we get to Globodyne, we meet the Harpers. Dick (Carrey) is a well-off executive, a bit jealous of a neighbor's special-order Mercedes but otherwise happily married to travel agent Jane (Leoni) and pleased to be the father of 6-year-old Billy.

Back at the office, Dick gets the call he's been waiting for. He's being promoted to vice president of communications, a job that includes rubbing shoulders with Chief Financial Officer Frank Bascombe (Richard Jenkins) and the company's legendary chief executive, Jack McCallister. Jack is nicely played by Alec Baldwin, who had a similar role in "Elizabethtown" and is becoming the actor of choice to portray blustery tycoons with questionable values. Though Jane quits her job on the strength of Dick's promotion, his situation is a set-up. He's being made the company fall guy, tapped to announce Globodyne's quarterly projections as the company goes up in smoke. Then Dick is out of a job and finds that his pension is gone as well.

Much of "Dick & Jane" is concerned with how the family copes as Dick finds it close to impossible to get a new job. The film takes jabs at Wal-Mart (thinly disguised as Kostmart) and offers some clever moments like the family showering in a neighbor's sprinklers. All this is pleasant enough, but never anything more, a series of moments that should be heading toward something but never are. The same goes for Dick and Jane's initial desperate forays into armed robbery. But this material is better than what comes next, a harebrained revenge plot that is equal parts uninteresting and hard to follow.

All is never completely lost with "Fun With Dick & Jane." Carrey and Leoni are gifted performers and work well off each other. Still, the film's overall frantic tone can't disguise the fact that the picture offers little delivery for all its buildup. Everyone involved with this production must have known there was a good movie somewhere, but no one's been quite able to find it.


`Fun With Dick & Jane'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional drug references

Times guidelines: Less raunchy than most

Released by Columbia Pictures. Director Dean Parisot. Producers Brian Grazer, Jim Carrey. Executive producers Peter Bart, Max Palevsky, Jane Bartelme. Screenplay Judd Apatow & Nicholas Stoller, based on a story by Gerald Gaiser and Judd Apatow & Nicholas Stoller. Cinematographer Jerzy Zielinski. Editor Don Zimmerman. Costumes Julie Weiss. Music Theodore Shapiro. Production design Barry Robison. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes.

In general release.

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