The first “Fun with Dick and Jane” was the popular reader that millions of first graders used to sound out words like “Oh” and “Run!” Dick and Jane were perfect suburban children in an idealized world of smiling parents, sunny lawns, and purring kittens.
The second Fun with Dick and Jane was a satire that introduced us to a married couple who were victims of the economic recession so decided to turn to a life of crime. Its most memorable scene had the couple’s lawn being repossessed — it was rolled up and carted away.
And now we have the third version, updated for the post-dot.com bubble, post-Enron era. This time, Dick (Jim Carrey) works for a huge conglomerate that “consolidates media properties.” Jane (Tea Leoni) is a travel agent. Dick is overjoyed to receive a sudden promotion to Vice President for Communcations until, in his first day on the job, he is appears on a television program to announce the company’s projected earnings, only to be attacked by Ralph Nadar because the CEO (Alec Baldwin) has been secretly selling his stock and the company is under investigation for financial shenanigans. The company tanks. Soon, Dick and Jane are failing at various efforts to earn money, and finally — the lawn repossessed and living off of all-you-can-eat buffets and visits to the soup kitchen, they take up a life of crime. See Dick steal. See Jane drive the getaway car.
In corporate terms, here is the movie’s balance sheet: On the asset side we have two exceptionally talented and attractive performers in Carrey and Leoni. His loopy physical humor in the rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly” in an elevator and the portrayal of a marionette are perfectly matched by her more understated but equally precise comic timing. Further assets are some sly pokes at contemporary life — Dick and Jane have a son who speaks with a Spanish accent (like the nanny) — and some surreal detours (as when Jane signs up as a guinea pig for a new beauty treatment that goes very wrong and when Dick tries to get work as an illegal immigrant and is deported).
On the liability side is a script that relies too much on easy jokes like silly costumes and expects us not to notice that, for example, Dick and Jane are completely incompetent as crooks (hello, fingerprints?). If they had just had to rely in some way on the skills they had learned on the job — if they had just been clever instead of lucky, this would have been a better, funnier movie.
But if it isn’t an Enron-style spectacular failure of a 2005 holiday comedy (that would be Rumor Has It…) it has enough smiles in it to keep the family feeling cheerful. Dick and Jane are still fun to be around.
Parents should know that this is a movie in which some characters feel a sense of entitlement, in part because they feel cheated and stolen from, that they believe justifies stealing from others. There is brief strong language, and the movie includes sexual references and non-explicit sexual references. Characters drink and one abuses alcohol to help numb his feelings.
Families who see this movie should talk about the corporate scandals listed at the end, including WorldCom, Enron, Adelphia, HealthSouth, Global Crossing, and Tyco. What is the difference between a corporate crook and a bank robber? What will Dick and Jane do next?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original, starring Jane Fonda and George Segal and Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run.