Fun with Dick and Jane

Opens Weds., Dec. 21, at Metro and others.

The comedy of embarrassment doesn't quite suit Jim Carrey. For it to work, you need someone with some shred of pride still on the line; Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin is the perfect recent example. Carrey's made a career on being unembarrassable—when he does his Jim Carrey shtick, that is, which tends to undermine the comic effect of this yuppie character falling from corporate grace. This isn't to say Fun With Dick and Jane, a remake of the 1977 George Segal–Jane Fonda vehicle, is a disaster; it's actually quite entertaining, especially if you like to squirm. Dick Harper (Carrey) and his wife, Jane (Téa Leoni), own a $600,000 house in an unidentified suburb somewhere in Texas. Alec Baldwin, playing Dick's boss with an understated Southern burr, sets him up as the company patsy, having him mouth everything's-OK corporate-speak on live TV as the company tanks. For the next hour, Dick, Jane, their young son, and their Hispanic housekeeper—a running semi-gag is that the kid knows more Spanish than English since he never sees his parents—watch as the family's nest egg, hurried along by Jane having quit her job the day Dick loses his, shoots over a cliff. Eventually, Dick and Jane turn to crime to maintain their accustomed lifestyle—the joke being that Dick's company, which sold nonexistent stock while Baldwin locked the take in a safe-deposit box, was essentially a criminal enterprise to begin with. The film's set in 2000, and parallels to Enron, among others, are explicit, especially at the end, which gives its farcical pitch some extra bite today. Carrey might seem perfect for this kind of thing, but his performance is oddly two-note: When he shticks it up, he reduces everyone around him to straight-man status. (Early on, he sings R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" with showy gesticulations as the "Produced by Jim Carrey" credit flashes under him. Thanks for clarifying.) But the horrifying things that happen to the Harpers—they're threatened with eviction from a house they can't sell without owing the bank $150,000, and Dick is even forced out of the country by the INS—are so over-the-top they don't need additional muggery to make them absurd. It's funnier and more horrifying when Carrey sticks to making Dick a normal guy—which, thankfully, is more often than not, at least within the movie's slapsticky conventions. (PG-13)

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