At a Jim Carrey comedy, even one of his light-and-lively holiday audience pleasers, you always hope to catch a glimpse of the devil inside — the maniacal Carrey, the happy-face anarchist who can turn a movie, any movie, into an arena for his own personal verbal/slapstick demolition derby. Fun With Dick & Jane looks like it would be tailor-made for an all-new variation on Carrey’s fine madness. A revamp of the 1977 George Segal?Jane Fonda piffle farce, retrofitted for the Enron era, the movie is a collapse-of-the-middle-class disaster comedy rooted in the desperation of all those faithful corporate men and women who feel as if they’ve been running in place, or — worse — sinking into the quicksand of a failing American dream. It is, in other words, the kind of movie in which you want to see Jim Carrey blow his stack.

Early on, there’s a funny, squirmy sequence in which Dick Harper (Carrey), a family guy with a nice wife named Jane (Téa Leoni) and just enough envy over his neighbor’s Mercedes to mark him as a solid patriot of upward mobility, gets promoted to vice president of communications at Globodyne and is interviewed on a money-talk cable news show, where he chokes, badly. His blank-brained, faltering ineptitude is really his inability to lie — to cover up for his bosses, to spin something out of nothing the way they do. Carrey, who plays Dick as a self-satisfied putz, bellowing ”I Believe I Can Fly” on the way to his promotion conference, suddenly lets you see the sweat, the fear that has seeped into the bedrock of corporate life.

As soon as Globodyne tanks, though, taking Dick’s job and pension along with it, the giggly anxiety leaks out of the movie. Fun With Dick & Jane turns out to be an innocuous domestic caper in headline-news drag. Carrey starts off as a harmless goof and just grows more harmless — more shticky and pandering and defanged — the ”crazier” he gets, as Leoni looks on with charmed concern. Wearing a brush cut that never fits the role, Carrey doesn’t do a lot here besides flash those vampire-nerd teeth, and I grew weary of seeing them.

The movie preserves one good bit from the original: the repossessing of sod from the Harpers’ front yard. Then, in an added touch, Dick scrambles all over the neighborhood lifting ragged chunks of grass to replace his precious lawn. In that moment, which might have come out of Dude, Where’s My Job?, you can glimpse the difference between movie culture in 1977, when even schlock had one foot in reality, and today, when no situation is so dire that it can’t be reduced to madcap trivia. Faced with ruin, Dick and Jane become armed robbers (see Dick and Jane in Bill and Hillary masks! See Dick take a pratfall to steal a low-fat muffin!), a gag that carries even less impact than it did in the trailer. Fun With Dick & Jane offers the faintly depressing sight of Jim Carrey, like Dick Harper, doing whatever it takes to earn his supper.

Fun With Dick and Jane (Movie - 2005)
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