random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Friday, January 13, 2006

REEL REVIEWS: Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) **

Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) early poster

PG-13 (for brief language, some sexual humor and occasional humorous drug references).
1hr. 25 min.
written by: Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller, & Peter Tolan
produced by: Jim Carrey & Brian Grazer
directed by: Dean Parisot

This past Tuesday a bunch of us fellas high-tailed over to the five dollar theater to catch a movie. It was kinda slim pickin' as far as choices. Some have already seen this while others didn't wanna see that. So, we decided on this here flick. Everyone figured it'd be good for a laugh. I went in not expected too much and it turned out I was neither disappointed or surprised. I had "fun" hanging out with the fellas but not so much with "Dick and Jane."

In the year 2000....Dick (Jim Carrey) and Jane Harper (Tea Leoni) are living the ideal life in Southern California. Dick has an executive position at mega-corporation, Globodyne. Jane works as a travel agent. Both successful careers.They live in a beautiful house complete with a huge flat screen HD TV and a newly laid-out lawn turf with affluent neighbors all around. They have a stereotypical Latin maid/babysitter and have a clever little Latin-obsessed son (hmmmm, wonder why?).
Who they are and the world they live in is all established within the first coupla minutes. It's all up on the screen for us to read....literally.

Yes, everything is looking great, possibly perfect for the Harpers.

What can make it even better? Dick gets sent to the 51st floor of Globodyne to be told that he's getting promoted to Vice President of Communications. Whoa! This is it, they think! Now Jane can quit her job and get more time with their boy. Dick gets invited over to CEO, Jack McCallister's house for breakfast where Jack (Alec Baldwin) and his business partner Frank Bascom (Richard Jenkins) tell him how wonderful he is and how great he is for the job. They sit him down and tell him that his first duty is to go on live television and tell the world the current status of the company. How great for you Dick!

But it turns out McCallister has secretly transferred and depleted funds from Globodyne leaving....nothing. Dick is humiliated and devastated in an on-air interview and comes home to find that Jane has quit her job. All the money they had was in Dick's company. Jane freaks out! They lose their savings, their lawn, and their HD TV!

After many humiliating job interviews and getting fired the day he was fired at what was supposed to have been a Sam's Club, Dick realizes that there are no jobs and then comes to the revelation that if stealing worked for McCallister....why can't they?

Hilarity ensues in ways only a movie with Jim Carrey can and should. There's plenty of funny moments as we see first Dick then Jane then both of them commit various acts of thievery. Yeah he robs a convenient store. That was funny. They rob a coffee shop and order drinks while at it. That was funny. They dress up as Sonny and Cher at a car dealership and steal money there. That was funny. They steal the neighbors Mercedes and ram it through a jewelry star dressed up like the Blue Brothers. That was funny. They even break into one of the guys Dick interviewed with, tied the guy up, and stole a bunch of stuff from him. That was funny. Yeah, it was all funny and after a while it was.....tiring. Really, how many times can we see them doing this? I mean after a while it's just funny, that's it. Nothing new. Just different locations. It got me tired and kinda bored.

Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni in Columbia Pictures' Fun with Dick and Jane

Part of it was I didn't really care about these characters. I saw them as one-dimensional, materialistic go-getters. Their priorities were all messed up. Dick is obviously a deadbeat dad cuz he doesn't even care that his housekeeper has more influence on his son that he or Jane. Jane seemed like she had a little more common sense than Dick but then she goes and joins him in his criminal pursuits.

Yeah, sure it's funny Jim Carrey schtick but if you want that go see the funnier "Liar, Liar" or "Bruce Almighty". In those movies at least the audience can connect a lil more with his characters but here, this Dick Harper is a big baby. I was quite impressed with Tea Leoni's comic timing here. I feel she matched Carrey each step of the way which I imagine for any actor is not easy to do. She's done good comedy before like "Flirting with Disaster" but here her physical stuff is really funny. Overall, the acting was good but the characters were annoying.

Now that I think about it, there's nothing really that funny about the aftermath of an Enron-like style meltdown. Trying to hold on to your life as everything comes crashing down around you is not funny either. I guess that's why there was something a lil unsettling about this remake. Yeah, this is a remake from the 1977 movie of the same title starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as Dick and Jane. Never saw it. Not gonna break a sweat to see it, either. So, yeah, I'd say this is kind of a rental or netflix of whatever you kids do out there.

By the way, some of you may know the name "Dick and Jane" from the controversial series of textbooks written by Zerna Sharp. The books were used to teach children to read from the 1930's through the 1960's. The main characters were Dick and Jane, a little boy and girl with supporting characters including Mother, Father, Spot the Dog, Puff the Cat, Jack the Clown (ew, creepy), and Tim the Teddy Bear. By the 1950's, these books were used by 80% of first graders. The books relying heavily on "sight-reading" and "repetition" using phrases like "Oh, see. Ph see Jane. Funny, funny Jane."The infamous phrase "See Spot run" was from these books as well. After a while, they were put aside cuz they were seen as kinda remedial.

They were controversial because of the way life was depicted or rather idealized. White-picket fenced families living in white suburbia. Kinda like in the movie. Hmmph. Black characters were not introduced till 1965 when the books were declining in popularity anyway. In 1955 Rudolph Flesch criticized the "Dick and Jane" series in his book, "Why Johnny Can't Read." First editions of the books are now worth as much as two hundred dollars. The books were reissued in 2003 and over 2.5 million copies were sold, but this time the publishers had warned against using them to teach reading to children. Related merchandise, such as shirts and magnets, also gained wide popularity, particularly among people who had never been exposed to the original series but were familiar with catch phrases like "See Spot run!"

Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) poster

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