The Mask (1994)
The Mask (1994)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.

Release Date: July 29th, 1994 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Charles Russell Actors: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Jeni, Orestes Matacena, Nancy Fish, Denis Forest

 


 

W

hat an absolutely perfect role for the out-of-control, rubber-faced Jim Carrey, giving him purpose and plot that allows him to go as overboard as he wants. “The Mask,” based on characters from the Dark Horse comic book, is essentially a live action cartoon. It’s not a mixing of live action and animation, but rather a seamless blend that uses computer graphics to augment the fast-talkin’, zoot-suited, permanently swingin’ green man hero in his squashing, stretching, and contorting routines, like Tex Avery’s “Red Hot Riding Hood” screwball short, which inspired many of this film’s kinetic exploits (along with the Tasmanian Devil, Bugs Bunny, and Pepe Le Pew).

In Edge City, the mild-mannered, nice-guy-who-finishes-last Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) wiles away his days at a bank, trying to win the ladies – but fails miserably. In walks Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz), with flaming red dress, rain-soaked, pulchritudinous cleavage, and pouty gushing lips (all in wonderful slow-motion). She’s the main attraction at a local nightclub, and Stanley’s intent on seeing more of her. But he doesn’t stand a chance, considering that he’s the loser who’s ripped off at the mechanic’s, forced to drive the broken-down “loner” vehicle, kicked out of the party, and unceremoniously dumped in the gutter.

During his depressing ride home, he attempts to rescue a drowning man, which leads to the unearthing of a heap of flotsam and a mysterious wooden mask. Ipkiss soon discovers that the mask has a mind of its own, transforming the wearer into a love-crazy wild man as a reflection of the mayhem instilled by the Norse God of Mischief (Loki). When Stanley’s new alter ego, The Mask, upsets crime boss Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene), along with the entire police force, he’s forced to become an unimaginable daredevil and a pseudo-superhero, all under the influence and amplification of his newfound, otherworldly powers.

Although it’s the now familiar, uncontrollable overacting that made him famous, this early role for Jim Carrey couldn’t possibly suit him better. The character is a natural underdog, constantly embarrassed in front of his friends, acquaintances, and the spicy hot femme fatale. He’s the perfect guy to get it all, a “big nothing” who deserves a chance at stardom. And nothing is more entertaining than seeing him become larger-than-life, invincible, self-confident, and daring – an escapism fantasy element that ensures “The Mask’s” overwhelming appeal.

Diaz makes an impressive debut as the alluring eye candy gangster moll, while the rest of the cast (Peter Riegert as the Lieutenant, Amy Yasbeck as a reporter, Richard Jeni as a friend, and Ben Stein as a doctor) fills in for additional comic relief – which is hardly necessary when Carrey is at the helm. The villains – also recognizable character actors – are noticeably viler than in typical lighthearted comedies, designed to contrast the ridiculousness of The Mask’s ventures and the detrimental situations Ipkiss continues getting into. Also worth mentioning is an astounding performance by Max the dog as Stanley’s incredibly intelligent companion, Milo.

It’s all wild and crazy and features outlandish special effects (which picked up an Oscar nod) that contribute to unexpectedly hilarious obnoxiousness – such as “hardened cops dancing in the streets.” “The Mask’s” mix of humor, slapstick, and heart really is a notch above Carrey’s already significant resume (opening after “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” but before “Dumb & Dumber,” all during the same year). Watching the magical visor simultaneously wreck and enhance Stanley’s simplistic life – while allowing him to stand up and stick it to “the man” – is the ultimate, empowering fantasy formula that makes this stylish, energetic picture so much fun.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10