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Backhanded Slapstick 

Jim Carrey's brand of fun helps reheat Dick and Jane.

Carrey and Leoni: Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • Carrey and Leoni: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Jerry Lewis chromosome is running amok again inside Jim Carrey, and if you don't feel like getting clubbed half to death with a slapstick, stay away from Fun With Dick and Jane. On the other hand, if Carrey's tireless antics -- slithering onto nightclub tables, speaking in tongues, and all manner of rubber-faced craziness -- are quick to leave you in stitches, then this sometimes pointed, sometimes pointless post-Enron comedy may be just the thing. Moviegoers who recall 1977's original Dick and Jane, starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as desperate suburbanites who turn to crime in the face of sudden poverty, already know most of the drill. Carrey and his screen spouse, Téa Leoni, find themselves in a similar fix when the nouveau Dick's crooked employer, a fictional corporate giant called Globodyne, tanks in the wake of vast boardroom malfeasance. But Carrey's brand of exhausting physical comedy is a far cry from Segal's useful bewilderment, so this ride is both rougher and loonier.

The co-writers here, Judd Apatow and Nicholas Stoller, obviously read the papers, watch CNN, and keep tabs on the latest federal indictments: Their busy screenplay is jam-packed with body shots aimed at Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers, and the rest of the billionaire conspiracy set. The bad boy stand-in here is one Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin), the shifty Globodyne CEO who makes off with a cool $400 mil (maybe more), while leaving his employees in the lurch -- stripped of their salaries, pensions, and potted plants. For Carrey's beleaguered Dick Harper, whose last gig with the company was as chief media spokesman and flak-catcher, that means a swift crash into the doldrums. In short order, this cocky, grinning backslapper loses his job, his BMW, and the crew of workmen digging his new swimming pool. It's not long before the lawn is repossessed. In a fit of bad timing, wife Jane has already quit her job -- and within a half-hour, the Harpers' maid has made off with their household appliances in lieu of wages.

This is the funniest, most energetic part of the farce, not least because Carrey's sudden need for a job takes him, hilariously, to a stuffy bank (where a score of bloodthirsty applicants have a lively briefcase fight), to a big-box discount store (where, after failing as a greeter, Dick's promptly fired), and, sinking ever lower, to a day-labor pool stocked with Mexican illegals. Even if Carrey's Dumb and Dumber or Bruce Almighty shtick did nothing for you -- in fact, especially if it did nothing for you -- the sight of him getting belted off the back of a truck, then busted by the INS, should warm the cockles of your heart. Meanwhile, Jane lands part-time work testing experimental drugs, and when gruesome side effects turn her face into something straight out of a horror flick, you have to give the lovely Leoni credit for showmanship and sporting blood.

In the last half-hour, it runs out of gas -- oddly enough, just as Dick and Jane Harper start to get better at sticking up department stores and robbing banks. Bottom line: This is for Carrey fans.

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More by Bill Gallo

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