(On Cable TV, January 2019) Twenty-few years later, you could think that Flirting with Disaster would be worth a look solely for being an early vehicle for writer/director David O. Russell and a cast with more known names than is worth enumerating. But Russell’s script deliberately leans in the oddball direction (like most of his other movies, in fact) and so this quirky independent comedy soon takes us through the United States with a bunch of eccentric characters as the protagonist tries to find the identity of his biological parents. The plot is contrived, but that’s the nature of the thing. There are twists and turns, humiliating moments, some flirting for both married characters and a few false leads in the biological parent search. Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette and Téa Leoni make up for a decent trio of leads, with decent supporting players in smaller roles. Mostly but not solely worth watching by Russell fans, Flirting with Disaster amounts to a quirky, amiable, decently entertaining film but not a particularly memorable one even despite its conscious decision to be off the wall.
(Netflix Streaming, April 2015) Watching this film from 2015’s viewpoint, I’m actually surprised that it dates from 2005 and not from, say, 2010. As a comic take on suburban desperation after a severe economic catastrophe, Fun with Dick and Jane may have been inspired by early-2000s Enron, but it feels designed for the late-2000s Great Recession. While it’s nominally a remake of a 1977 film, Fun with Dick and Jane is conceived as yet another excuse for Jim Carrey to goof off, as his executive-level protagonist turns to a life of crime after losing a high-flying job and seeing his comfortable upper-middle-class threatened with foreclosure. Carrey gets play up his clean-cut goofiness, banter back and forth with a game Tea Leoni and generally cut loose. Not every gag in the film works (there’s a subplot, arguably an entire character, designed to culminate in a series of immigration jokes) and the denunciation of corporate malfeasance is more caricatured than effective, but Fun With Dick and Jane at least delivers another fair classic-Carrey performance, and a few decent chuckles along the way. It does feel like a film out of time, though, far more appropriate five years later (alongside The Other Guys or Tower Heist) than for 2005.