Ace Venture: Pet Detective (1994)
Release Date: February 4th, 1994 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Tom Shadyac Actors: Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young, Tone Loc, Dan Marino, Udo Kier, Noble Willingham, Tiny Ron, Rebecca Ferratti
he film starts with an unforgettable jab at UPS, with goofy pet detective Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) handling a fragile package with particularly ungentle hands. From here, audiences are introduced to an iconic screen bonehead, flaunting his Hawaiian t-shirts, oversized sports coat, permanently-plastered grin, towering hairdo, flailing head and mouth movements, and surprising knack for gathering microscopic details. Carrey creates an over-the-top, highly exaggerated character that teeters on insane, obnoxious, and overbearing, but never quite plunges into the arena of tiresome.
Miami Dolphins’ mascot Snowflake the bottlenose dolphin is abducted two weeks prior to the big Super Bowl game. Superstitious players drive an antsy manager to commission the help of recommended private pet investigator Ace Ventura, who immediately discovers a tiny orange jewel in the filter of the massive “fish” tank. This leads him to suspect that a football player in possession of a championship ring is the culprit; it’s a hunch that takes him from one eccentric character to the next for strange interrogations. During the case, he’s aided by Dolphins’ publicist Melissa Robinson (Courteney Cox) and thwarted at every turn by no-nonsense police lieutenant Lois Einhorn (Sean Young).
“It’s a good thing I’m a master of disguise.” Ventura uses slapstick, boisterous verbal wailing, turbulent appendage thrashing, and asinine costumes to do his sleuthing. Though much of it is completely absurd, it’s also undeniably amusing. An exquisitely complex plot to break into a mental institution is the highlight, along with the crashing of a ritzy party thrown by Ron Camp (cult favorite Udo Kier). Unfortunately, the actual solving of the mystery, while unpredictable, is largely uneventful.
There are a number of laugh-out-loud moments in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” including plenty of quotable lines of idiotic dialogue. The character would become one of Carrey’s most popular subjects, and one of the productions that launched his feature film stardom and his signature, famously overacted mannerisms. But despite funny tidbits, the movie feels abrupt, lacking elaborate setups for comedic mayhem, catchy music, or supporting characters that can compete with Ventura’s reckless abandon. In the end, it’s a one-man show that doesn’t need to be toned down so much as its skits need to be better embellished and decorated. That’s not to say, however, that the film is anything but supremely memorable.
– Mike Massie