The Mask (1994)

"Somebody *stop* me!" - Jim Carrey

This thin-but-amusing adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book is closer
in spirit to BEETLEJUICE than BATMAN, though what it really resembles is
the third segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE.  By Joe Dante.  Pet
Detective Jim Carrey stars as a mild-mannered bank clerk who dons a
mystic mask to transform into something wilder and hipper than Jerry
Lewis *ever* imagined.

The concept is canny enough:  a green-faced, yellow zoot-suited
superhero be-bopping around and just generally causing mischief in the
dark, edgy city of Edge City.  Complete with nifty matte painting ala
BATMAN.  Said mask is discovered by a diver, floats to the surface, and
is finally found by repressed-but-still-a-nice-guy bank clerk Stanley
Ipkiss (Carrey).

(Though, frankly, Jim Carrey is pretty soggy as a milquetoast.  But we
 know he's the hero-to-be and that's all that counts.)

The fun comes when Stanley tries on the mask and is transformed into a
living cartoon character, just like the ones he like to watch after
work.  Stanley spins like the Tazmanian Devil and bounces like Woody
Woodpecker, to name a few.  The twist is that Stanley Ipkiss, aka The
Mask, is not a goody two-shoes and he ends up doing some of his own
dirty deeds that set both the cops *and* the crooks on his yellow tail.

Viewers still recovering from ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE can relax;
THE MASK is not a Jim Carrey vehicle, per se.  The rubber-faced actor
actually exerts *some* self-control over the course of the film and
that's good news because Carrey can be a bit much to take.  (Even Robin
Williams and Jonathan Winters work within boundaries.  For Carrey, there
are no rules.)

Though the comic is clearly captivating, the real star is/are the
(literally) eye-popping special effects that allows Carrey to stretch
and contort into shapes previously only permitted for cartoon
characters.  Too bad that too many of the gags-- such as Carrey turning
into a whistling wolf-- go on too long.  THE MASK needs twice as many
gags in half the time.

There are two dance routines, though, that are pretty fun, including
Carrey as "Cuban Pete" in a sequence that recalls the "Banana Boat Song"
from BEETLEJUICE.  And don't miss a dog who's a better scene-stealer
than Eddie from TV's "Fraiser."

Production values are all surprising strong-- notably in the sound
department-- but the story doesn't have either an edge or an interesting
subplot to speak of.  There's noir to run from a bad "B"-movie menu of
supporting characters including a siren (Cameron Diaz), a gangster, a
rasping Mr. Big, and a smart-mouthed cynic cop (Peter Reigert).

Most disappointing are too many obvious references to animator
extraordinaire Tex Avery.  Subtly, where is thy sting?

BOTTOM LINE:  A must-see for Carrey fans; a manageable matinee for the
rest of us.

Grade: B-

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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