The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Dick and Jane’ no fun for audiences

Laura Miller | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

“Fun with Dick and Jane,” starring Jim Carrey (Dick), is most assuredly fun but just about as creative as its title.

Directed by Dean Parisot and written by Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller, this movie uses the archaic “Dick and Jane” stories for beginning readers as a springboard for the story. Or at least, that’s what it was supposed to do, but the only things that are really used are the names Dick and Jane (played by Téa Leoni). The rest, while modestly amusing, is a plot that lacks both motivation and a satirical commentary on the children’s text.

This film ends up satisfying no one. For those who crave Carrey’s over-the-top comedic style, this film falls short. Gone are the agonizing screams of “Bruce Almighty,” the prancing hilarity of “The Grinch” and the quirky role-playing of “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Those who love Carrey’s absolute absurdities are disappointed, and those who don’t probably wouldn’t have gone to see a Carrey movie anyway.

At one point in time, the acting would have been sufficient for a comedy, but actors Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have raised the bar for modern mindless comedy. No longer does mediocre acting satisfy audiences. Comedy has gone beyond the script – it now includes expression and the individual personality of the actors. Like other contemporary comedies, the film is full of snappy little one-liners that draw the laughs, but unlike more popular films, they aren’t witty enough to commit to memory. It’s like listening to someone tell a series of really funny knock-knock jokes.

“Fun with Dick and Jane” was easy to follow, but had one major flaw in its script – this story is for children. It has just enough “inappropriate” content to boost it up to a PG-13 rating, but not enough to entertain adults. As a result, many parents will be ambivalent about taking their children, and most adults will feel that the film is juvenile. It essentially targets one age group – 12- to 14-year-olds.

A good film should speak to a broad audience. The screenwriters should have picked either an adult audience or a children’s one and written accordingly, but instead, “Fun with Dick and Jane” is in limbo between the two and – like the acting – leaves almost every audience member dissatisfied.

The cinematography of this movie is ordinary, ordinary, ordinary. Comedy doesn’t really lend to too many creative brainstorms on this front, but the blandness of Dick and Jane’s house, car, child, television, carpet and costuming does nothing to even try to compensate for the lack of good humor.

The movie intended to present the picture of perfect suburbia seen in the books – each house looking identical, yards neatly trimmed and each family with a husband, wife, child and dog. The creators should have looked to Carrey’s “The Truman Show” for tips on constructing a comic suburban setting. If highlighted, the ridiculous uniformity could have been a hoot, but the cinematography fails to focus on the satirical commentary of suburbia. This destroys the mood of the script and diminishes the irony of Dick and Jane’s struggles against their (supposedly) stereotypical surroundings.

The verdict on “Fun with Dick and Jane”? Forgettable. Certainly not worth the obscenely-high ticket prices. It’s bad enough that people will be walking out of the theaters, but in two weeks, no one will remember the plot or anything about it. It’s not painfully bad, but it’s not good either.

“Fun with Dick and Jane” leaves viewers wishing that they had stayed home to watch “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” for the umpteenth time.