There seems to have been a spate of comedy remakes of TV shows and films from the 60s and 70s recently, be it Bewitched or Starsky and Hutch, The Producers or The Longest Yard. Some have been more successful than others.
With this updating of the 1977 husband and wife robbers caper, originally starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as the down-on-their-luck middle class types forced into a life of crime, director Dean Parisot has cunningly picked a film now largely forgotten in the hope of having less to live up to. The original was, nonetheless, a very well-crafted and occasionally hilarious little social comedy starring two big-name actors at the height of their game, so this remake has a fair amount to live up to.
Bringing in Jim Carrey for the lead is thus obviously a smart move. Though a few years ago his wacky facial contortions and slapstick antics had begun to grow tired, his more considered and mature turns in the likes of Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have managed to convince most of his critics that he is far more than just a grinning funny-man. In the face of stiff up-and-coming competition from the likes of Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Jack Black and Owen Wilson, Carrey has managed to maintain his position as one of Hollywood’s most bankable comedy stars.
Originally, Carrey was to have teamed up with Cameron Diaz, another comic star who has maintained her appeal in the face of many new challengers, and thus revive their glorious partnership from 1994’s The Mask, the film that secured them both A-list status. Such a pairing could easily have led to something very special indeed, if only for nostalgia value and the opportunity to see how much or little they have changed in the 12 years since their last screen outing together.
Instead, the role of the wife originally taken by Jane Fonda has gone to Téa Leone, at one stage best known as “the wife of David Duchovny from The X-Files”, but now increasingly becoming recognised as one of the most subtle and talented comic actresses currently working. The only trouble is, she’s hardly ever had the opportunity to prove it, turning up in nonsense like Jurassic Park III, and never really being given the chance to shine – save for her criminally overlooked performance in 2004’s Spanglish.
Here, however, Leone fails to quite demonstrate her full range up against Carrey, simply due to his overwhelming ability to dominate any scene in which he appears. In fact, so much does Carrey dominate it’s fairly easy to see why Diaz might have pulled out – her intended character, as it appears with Leone in her place, is never really given enough screen time to make too much of an impact. Despite being about a husband and wife team, it is the husband who seems to do all the work.
Still, Jim Carrey on form is always worth watching. This may not be as interesting or as original a film as some of his other outings, but it will more than satisfy his fans. If you fancy a fun night out, there’s plenty of laughs to go around.