The ‘Fun’ doesn’t last in new Carrey comedy

  • By Robert Horton / Herald movie critic
  • Tuesday, December 20, 2005 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

If only it had a director tying things together, “Fun with Dick and Jane” might have been a cutting little comedy about life in these United States. It begins well and then peters out, like so many promising movies.

Based on a mostly forgotten 1977 comedy with Jane Fonda and George Segal, “Fun” introduces us to the Harpers, an upwardly mobile couple with an expensive new house, young son and Hispanic maid.

Dick (Jim Carrey) has just landed a promotion at his huge, Enron-esque company, so Jane (Tea Leoni) quits her job. Just as they’re settling in for the good life – and at the very moment Dick is representing his company on a live cable-TV financial show – the corporation self-destructs.

“Fun with Dick and Jane”

A little fun: Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni, newly burned by a corporate meltdown, plan their revenge by turning to a life of crime. Some funny bits but nothing ties together, and eventually it peters out.

Rated: PG-13 rating is for language

Now showing: Alderwood 7, Everett 9, Galaxy 12, Marysville 14, Mountlake 9, Meridian 16, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville 12, Cascade

Dick loses everything, as do the company’s other pensioners and employees. After weeks of trying to land similar jobs, he tries a position at a Wal-Mart-style megastore and then as a day laborer hanging around on a street corner (this leads to a pretty funny sequence that inexplicably takes him over the Mexican border and illegally back into the United States).

Eventually – and it takes too long to get here – he and Jane turn to crime. They figure it’s fair; if the CEOs of giant corporations can practice virtual highway robbery and get away with it, why shouldn’t the little guy do some actual highway robbery?

There are some amusing episodes in thievery, and the idea that crime might re-ignite the sleepy Harper marriage is a potentially good one. But it’s not developed, just as other threads are left undone (and their son is basically forgotten).

The movie, which was partly written by “40-Year-Old Virgin” guy Judd Apatow, sets its guns on Dick’s former CEO, a billionaire buccaneer. He’s played by Alec Baldwin with all the amoral self-satisfaction of Enron’s “Kenny Boy” Lay (what’s up with Baldwin becoming the capitalist fat cat du jour, after “The Aviator” and “Elizabethtown”?). Can Dick and Jane sting this most deserving of targets?

“Fun with Dick and Jane” is set in 2000, either because this was the last time people believed that corporations might have some innocence, or because it sets up the final punch line. Director Dean Parisot, who made “Galaxy Quest,” is as vague with the time period as he is with other details about the Harpers’ life.

Tea Leoni is a talented comedian, but here she’s only rarely given chances to cut loose. Jim Carrey is straddling his manic mode and his regular-guy persona, with mixed results. There are a few great Carrey moments – scratching his fingernails against the walls of his home at a moment of meltdown – that remind us he’s at his best with his temperature on boil. But the film isn’t good enough to set him up properly, and you’re left thinking his talent needs a better container.

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