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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fun With Dick and Jane

So last Friday I griped about going to the Essex Outlet Cinemas and not finding a single Chapman in sight. Today I went and found them in abundance. Dale, Karen and daughter Jerris, home from college, were all on hand. I love Jerris. She is disgustingly gorgeous but is still willing to talk to me, so she earns points for that, plus she doesn't hold it against me that I am old enough to be her great grand... older cousin. Also on board were Concession Queens Rachel and Nancy, both more than willing to tolerate my distracting them with my inane babbling before going in to see the new comedy Fun With Dick and Jane. Now I call this a "new comedy although it is actually a remake of a 1977 film by the same name that starred George Segal and Jane Fonda. I was going to point that out to the young'uns who work at the Essex Outlet Cinemas but I was afraid that they would only remember Jane Fonda as that woman that a lot of veterans hate because she had something to do with assasinating Abraham Lincoln during World War II so for once I decided to restrain myself, order my popcorn and swimming pool sized Diet Pepsi (with free refill ~ although the theater provides no responsibility for ruptured bladders due to overfilling same just so you know).

Now what is the deal with all these remakes anyway? It used to be sequels, movies with numbers up to 4, 5, and 6 following them. Now we get remakes of movies, but the remakes seldom follow the original storylines except in vague reminiscences. Take this Fun With Dick and Jane. Both the original and this version begin with Dick and Jane Harper living the perfect suburban upscale lifestyle. Dick has a great career with the promise of a vice-presidency at Globodyne, a technology company so vast and complicated that even when Dick is explaining the product to its' customers they don't know what he's talking about. Another thing Dick doesn't know is that the owner of the company, Jack McAllister (as usual, the slimy-to-perfection Alec Baldwin), is a scoundrel who is screwing the company out of every penny and that Globodyne is about to fold. Of course in the 2005 version the stakes are a lot higher and the audience has a more sophisticated understanding of this sort of thing, having lived through the Worldcom, Adelphia, and Enron scandals amongst others. When the company does collapse, Dick and Jane (in 2005 played by zany Jim Carrey and the lovely and equally comedic Téa Leoni) find their world rapidly eroding as their savings and stock portfolio were all wrapped up in Dick's company. Their home, mortgaged to the hilt, is worth little, especially since the area is now financially devastated due to all of the layoffs from the company's closure. With thousands out of work even upper management is scurrying for jobs at Burger King and before long Dick is desperate enough to realize that his only option to avoid foreclosure is robbery. Naturally Jane wants in on this action and soon the two of them are making Bonnie and Clyde look like skilled masterminds.

Most of the film then follows the duo as they embark on a series of silly yet amusing capers resorting to disguises, pratfalls, pitfalls, spittakes, and assorted foolishness before restoring their bank accounts to good health. There does seem to be a certain sense of satisfaction for the viewer in seeing Starbucks getting robbed, especially since it's been robbing its' customers blind for years now but the idea of seeing Dick hold-up someone at an ATM, however, isn't nearly as funny. At least in the original there seemed to be a social statement throughout about who the Harpers robbed (the phone compane, a crooked televangelist, a "no-tell" motel) that seems missing in the new version.

Sort of as an after-thought Dick decides that he and Jane should seek revenge on McAllister for stealing the Globodyne pension funds, and they concoct a dynamic plot worthy of Mission Impossible in diverting $440 million in bearer bonds from McAllister before he can transfer them to an off-shore account so they can return the money to Globodyne employees in fully-vested pension payments. This is actually the most fun of the movie with all sorts of machinations necessary to get McAllister's signature from paper A to paper B and from bank employee C to bank employee D all without their scheme being discovered under the nose of McAllister or the bank officials themselves and all before the wire transfer takes place, giving them roughly three minutes to pull the job.

Okay, so the third act gets a bit too touchy-feely with all this
altruistic sense of goodwill towards all. In the original, Dick and Jane weren't quite so nice. They were more than willing to steal the money from McAllister (back when it required actually cracking a safe and physically taking a bag of cash since that was before the days of Internet transfers). It seems most appropriate that for a movie being released at Christmas that the right message be sent to the audience and what says Christmas more than "money, money, money." The old Dick and Jane keep it for themselves. This "newfangled" Dick and Jane give it all away. Somehow this all just seems so backwards. Jane Fonda, '70s bleeding heart in the Age of Aquarius keeps the cash. Jim Carrey, jokester in the Era of Enron, funnels it back to the needy. What is this world coming to?

The next thing you know we'll have, oh I don't know, say a matinee idol like Heath Ledger releasing two movies at the same time where he plays the romantic leading man to both a cowboy and a countess.
I'm telling you, when that happens, my head may just explode.

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