A lazy way to start this review would be to ape the writing of the children’s book series that this movie takes its title from. You know what I’m talking about. See Dick run. See Jane do whatever it is she did. See Spot take a dump on the carpet because he’s too dumb to know any different. That sort of thing.
I could tell you in that fashion that this movie isn’t very funny and personifies the word “slight” in describing the impression it will leave on you when you’ve finished it. I thought about being that lazy, but then I decided to take the even lazier route and do that at the end of this review.
With George Segal as Dick and Ed McMahon as a slimy bad guy, that obviously leaves us with Jane Fonda as the only reason to watch this movie. Sure, when I was pinned down behind enemy lines in North Vietnam watching every guy I ever loved spill his blood and guts trying to keep our great country safe from those Godless commies, I was a bit irked that she was photographed sitting at the enemy’s anti-aircraft battery.
But on the other hand, she’s pretty good looking. So I figured, what the hey? Even though my 1975 Maverick still sports its “I’m not Fonda Jane” bumper sticker, I won’t turn down a chance to see her in action. I wasn’t the only guy at Stanely & Iris who didn’t care all that much whether Robert DeNiro would ever learn to read or not.
But even Jane’s presence couldn’t jump start anything in this lame attempt to run our country down, not for its fight against commie types, but for its economic troubles. I am confident that you could make a comedy about regular folks turning to a life a crime because times are tough even though my dim memories of the similarly-themed How To Beat The High Cost Of Living are that it wasn’t too great either. (In spite of that striptease by Jane Curtain!)
The big problem with Fun With Dick And Jane is a simple one – it isn’t funny. It’s not really that the jokes fall flat, because there aren’t really any jokes per se. I think the humor is supposed to come from the crazy situations Dick and Jane get themselves in. However, Dick being too nervous to rob a pharmacy and ending up buying a bunch of condoms instead and Jane blundering badly at her new job as a fashion model were scenes that only McMahon in his loyal sidekick mode from The Tonight Show would have been able to enthusiastically guffaw about. And maybe the money-grubbing televangelist character was cutting edge decades ago, but it seems like a tired cliche now.
There are some amusing moments. When Dick is trying to navigate all the hurdles involved in getting government aid like food stamps and unemployment, he is helped by a recently fired janitor from his company named Raoul. Raoul explains to Dick how they can get jobs that pay cash without reporting it and still collect unemployment.
In a somewhat inspired moment, this involves Raoul and Dick as extras in an opera. But there’s too few scenes like that and too many where Dick and Jane bicker with each other about their life of crime or about their landscaping getting repossessed.
McMahon’s character (Dick’s boss) is the putative villain, but he doesn’t do much other than fire Dick, ogle Jane, and take kickbacks from foreign companies. He’s a sleaze to be sure, but I can’t say that I was really rooting for Dick and Jane to steal all his kickback money. Maybe back in the 1970s this was cause for outrage, but anymore you’ve got 20,000 people getting laid off at once and you operate under the assumption that the CEOs in charge of things are crooks. It’s hard to really get wound up about anything Dick’s boss did here.
Though George Segal and Jane Fonda are an appealing enough screen couple, I must make special mention of one aspect of their respective performances – their clothing. These mid seventies movies will often distract you from the story with their strangely unsettling fashion sense. George occasionally sports ugly window pane suits, tight pink sweaters and white pants. Jane’s effort though is bootacular as she either tucks her knee high boots into her pants or better yet, rolls her jeans up her knees while wearing them!
And who exactly is the audience for this movie? Why am I supposed to care about the injustice of some rich folks falling on hard times? In the old days, directors like Orson Welles recognized in films like Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons that nothing makes a good story like watching rich people miserable. And before anyone says that it’s unfair to compare this movie from director Ted Kotcheff with the works of someone like Welles, remember that Kotcheff directed Weekend At Bernie’s!
And you didn’t think I could actually resist the following, did you? See MonsterHunter watch Fun With Dick And Jane. See MonsterHunter doze repeatedly. See MonsterHunter put Fun With Dick And Jane on ebay. See no one bid on it. See MonsterHunter’s brother-in-law feign excitement upon receiving a pre-owned copy of Fun With Dick And Jane for his birthday.
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