Written by David Giler, Jerry Belson, and Mordecai Richler, based on a story by Gerald Gaiser
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Starring George Segal, Jane Fonda, Ed McMahon, Richard Gautier, Fred Willard
- Theatrical trailer
Released by: Columbia/Tristar.
My Advice: Rent it.
Don’t panic, I’m not going to do a stupid ‘See Dick and Jane Run’ style synopsis. Dick (Segal) and Jane (Fonda) are living the classic American dream. Dick works an aerospace engineer and Jane stays home to care for their son Billy and their dog Spot. They are living the proto-yuppie middle-class suburban lifestyle. But their split-level Colonial is actually a house of cards that starts to tumble when Dick gets laid off by his boss and so-called friend Charlie (McMahon). They soon discover that maintaining their standard of living left them with two mortgages, maxed out credit cards, and no savings or assets. Dick must deal with the indignity of collecting unemployment payments and getting signed up for the Food Stamp program. Jane must deal with gardeners repossessing her lawn and getting and keeping a job. Working within the system is getting them nowhere fast.
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Pain and suffering can be the stuff of great comedy. You know you’ve laughed at least once at the guy being hit in the balls on America’s Funniest Home Videos. The same is true for Fun With Dick and Jane, but they’re making fun of financial ruin and middle class disintegration. This is by no means a black comedy; it’s done strictly for laughs. It is interesting that this movie preceded the downsizing trend of later years before ‘downsizing’ became a common term. We laugh at their plight, but in the back of our minds, we wonder if we would fare better. But that’s the first half.
The second half of the film is pure wish fulfillment, simply walking to a cashier, saying ‘Stick ’em up!’ and getting a wad of cash. Even better is ripping off your boss who fired you. Segal and Fonda play their roles as light as the movie itself. They give the banter and bickering just enough edge to engage your interest, but not enough to be serious. And you knew Ed McMahon had to have done something before The Tonight Show or Star Search. He’s not half bad as the jovial boss who has more charm than intelligence.
There’s only a trailer as an extra on the disc, and while this isn’t an instant classic that deserves the Criterion treatment, it would have been nice to have something else here. A commentary with any of the major players (the director is still with us, as are two of the scribes from what we can tell, and of course, Segal and Fonda) would have been nice or even a short retrospective docu. Apparently there are additional scenes extant that were used for television broadcast but not included here–why not? If you’ve already got the content, use it. There’s a remake in the works so Hollywood feels it’s worth remining for new audiences, so some more goodness here perhaps was warranted.
Before that remake hits later this year, you should check out the original Fun With Dick and Jane because the new version is hardly ever as good as the original.