Tuesday 31 May 2011

Movie Review: Fun With Dick And Jane (1977)

A comedy about economic hardship prompting a benign crime spree, Fun With Dick And Jane is a commentary about the middle class obsession with keeping up appearances and materialism. It hits a few high notes, but generally ambles along, relying on star charisma to make up for a limited premise.

Aeronautical engineer Dick Harper (Georg Segal) is a victim of downsizing. His boss Charlie (Ed McMahon) fires him, blaming the recession and poor company performance due to the shrinking space exploration program. Dick and his stay-at-home wife Jane (Jane Fonda) have a large suburban home, a mountain of debt and no assets. Dick is unable to find work, so Jane takes on a variety of humiliating jobs to make ends meet. After trying to get by on unemployment insurance and food stamps, Dick and Jane grow desperate and start a crime spree, robbing everything from corner stores to church donations. For their final heist, Dick and Jane decide to break into Charlie's safe, where he keeps a large amount of cash as an illegal slush fund to grease business deals.

George Segal was the Dick Van Dyke of his era, never convincing as an actor but always watchable as a comedian looking for the next messy situation to get embroiled in. The Fun With Dick And Jane script (co-written by Mordecai Richler) lacks a cutting edge, leaving Segal to stroll through the film with minimal impact. He does get one good scene to spread his comic wings, attempting his first robbery at a pharmacy but getting his gun stuck in his pants.

Jane Fonda does better, adding effortless glamour and attractive bemusement to the role of the well-taken-care-of wife who now needs to take more control of her life and her man.

Director Ted Kotcheff finds few opportunities to add any flair to the proceedings, and settles for just following his two stars around.

Fun With Dick And Jane achieves what it sets out to do, but it does set the bar low before clearing it.

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