Fun With Dick And Jane

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Plunged into poverty by a vast corporate swindle, self-satisfied suburbanites Dick (Carrey) and Jane (Leoni) Harper turn to armed robbery to reverse their downward spiral.


DICK: “Oh come on, Jane, you never worked a day in your life. You can’t type and you can’t take shorthand.”
JANE: “I’m a college graduate, reasonably intelligent, not altogether unattractive.”
DICK: “Yes, but will you be happy being a hooker?”
JANE: “Interesting that the only two jobs you consider me qualified for are secretary and hooker.”
DICK: “You’re not qualified to be a secretary…”

Not the sort of banter you’d expect to hear in a bright ’n’ breezy Hollywood rom-com. That’s because you don’t. Not in this one, at least; that exchange comes from the original 1977 Dick And Jane, a razor-sharp satire on class struggle and the evaporating America dream, which adroitly masquerades as a screwball star turn. It’s a scene referenced in Dean Parisot’s retread. When corporate malfeasance sends affluent suburbanites Dick and Jane Harper (Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni) to the poor house, Dick suggests prostitution as a possible remedy. “No, honey, I mean me!” he says, registering his wife’s horror. Ha ha. So, another fine example of ’70s subversion emerges lemony-fresh from the remake laundry, all unseemly traces of satire washed away.

Well, not quite. The modern Dick and Jane are certainly cuter than the George Segal-Jane Fonda version and the original’s rancorous battle-of-the-sexes bickering is sadly absent. But the liberating kick they get from a riotous spree of armed robberies, their anarchic revenge on the society that screwed them, is a pertinent comment on the malaise of the modern American middle classes. Okay, so the principal targets (Enron-style corporate greed and the fuck-you hubris of the super-rich) are softer, but they’re fired on with merry precision. Dick & Jane has all the trappings of slick Hollywood product, glossy and refined to within an inch of its life, but it also has at least the semblance of a moral conscience.

And anyone who expects more from a Jim Carrey vehicle than sideswipes at plundering plutocrats, rest assured that it is also rather funny. He’s back on top slapstick form and brews up great chemistry with Leoni. In its best moments — like the scene where the giggly couple, high on crime, hold up a scumbag executive, their voices insanely disguised by vococers — Dick & Jane proves as much fun as watching a crooked fat cat get his comeuppance.

This softer remake of the barbed 1977 original keeps the laughs coming while taking timely potshots at the greed of modern corporate culture.