The 1977 comedy Fun With Dick And Jane seems like an ideal candidate for a remake: It botches an ingenious premise badly enough to leave room for improvement. And given the free-floating economic anxiety that powers the original, it seems like a smart move to set a remake in 2000, around the time the New Economy bubble burst in a frenzy of plunging stock prices and corporate scandals. So how can a project that began with such promise end up such a slick, pandering misfire?
The answer, unsurprisingly, has a lot to do with Jim Carrey, whose primary goal as one of the film's producers was apparently ensuring that he was allowed to go as big and broad as possible in every scene. After his restrained, beautifully modulated turn in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Carrey is back in flailing, over-the-top mode throughout Dick And Jane. By the time he hams his way through an endless version of "I Believe I Can Fly" in an elevator, it's apparent that any satirical aspirations will be sacrificed to shrill physical shtick and Carrey's bottomless narcissism.
Carrey stars as an ambitious white-collar striver turned fall guy when a disastrous television appearance (opposite Ralph Nader, no less) causes his Enron-like corporation to tank. In a desperate attempt to reclaim their upper-middle-class quality of life, Carrey and wife Téa Leoni resort to a series of wacky hold-ups before settling on one big score at the expense of Carrey's villainous ex-boss (Alec Baldwin, eerily reprising his Elizabethtown role).
Like its predecessor, Dick And Jane is less a satire of consumerism than a hypocritical celebration of it. Dick And Jane's credits thank a rogue's gallery of corporate-scandal all-stars like Enron's Kenneth Lay for inspiration, making it the first $100-million tribute to a wealthy comedian's ego to end by congratulating itself for sticking it to the fat cats.