Primed to coincide with the stateside cinema release of the Jim Carey remake, Ted Kotcheff's original comedy caper about a couple of middle-class armed robbers makes its way back onto DVD courtesy of a budget release by Sony Pictures. And boy, it's so seventies it makes the Osmond's look cutting edge. Dick Harper (George Seagal) is an upwardly mobile aerospace executive living a comfortably bourgeois lifestyle in his lavish home with kept wife Jane (Jane Fonda). One fateful morning however, Dick's existence falls apart when he is unceremoniously fired by his unscrupulous boss Ed MacMahon (Charlie Blanchard). Faced with the financial pressures of maintaining their accustomed splendour, the Harpers valiantly attempt to find employment, claim benefits, and take out loans. After ultimately realising that adhering to the law doesn't necessarily pay, Dick and Jane become the California's most unlikely pair of armed robbers. Kind of a Bonnie and Clyde with a stainless steel fondue set, if you will. It's a cracking premise for a movie, and while the film doesn't really take full advantage of the scenario's potential, it's still an entertaining and diverting hour and a half. The film has a breezy good nature that's infectious and takes you along for the ride whether trivial little romps like this are generally your cup of Earl Grey or not. Fonda gives her usually stellar performance, and Segal proves what a talented and versatile actor he actually was (especially in comedic roles) before direct-to-video hell claimed its next victim. If there is one criticism of the film, it's certainly not as clever as it likes to think it is. The platform for a bit of cutting social commentary and an indictment of the American class structure is there, but it's not really exploited to the full and in any more than broad strokes. The central conceit, that it's ok to fund your lavish lifestyle so long as you do so by robbing equally materialistic souls, seems somewhat dubious as well. Dick and Jane flitter between sympathetic unfortunates and fat cat materialists to the point that it is difficult to get a definitive handle on their characters. There is certainly the nucleus of a fantastic black comedy trying to get out here, but that path is eschewed in favour of the more simple pleasures of a more sitcom-flavoured farce. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course, and as long as you don't try and dig too deeply into it (which perhaps I have been guilty of here) there's plenty to enjoy. As far as a symbol of the time it was made, you could quite easily package this into a time capsule for future generations to see how garish the seventies were. It looks truly horrific, and I mean that in a good way. The film superbly shows the era as the decade fashion forgot as we are immersed in a deliciously vile cataclysm of brown, beige and olive hues, polyester tuxedos and glasses with frames you could hang a mountain bike from. The theme tune too is a glorious ode to seventies naffness, being simultaneously repulsive and unintentionally hilarious at the same time. The horribly dated nature of the movie actually adds no end to its charm, projecting it as an innocent and forgivable piece of fluff that you feel inclined to give a chance to. No doubt this film already has a strong fanbase who will clamour for this on disc (if they don't already own the original release). Those yet uninitiated could do worse than giving it a go for a dose of undemanding yet entertaining hokum.
Our Review Ethos