The Mask ( 1994 USA)

the-maskI hate Jim Carrey and avoid anything he is in. Except this classic. It is still fun the tenth time you view it. The special effects are impressive, and they’re as guilty of overwhelming the star’s performance as complimenting it. Nevertheless,Ā  if you think Carrey has an expressive face, wait ’til you see him with the mask on. Eyes pop out and jaws drop in a most sss-moking way.

ILM goes to work with their own version of live-action animation whenever anyone dons the mask. Good costumes and make-up serve only to enhance the computer-generated visuals. And, even as the audience’s attention is arrested by the work of the effects wizards, there’s still room for a canine scene-stealer. Milo (whose real name is Max) is the perfect foil for Carrey’s goofiness and — yes — there are occasions where his animal antics divert the spotlight away from his two-legged co-star. Carrey, meanwhile, is playing a split role: mild-mannered Stanley Ipkiss and his superhuman alter-ego, the Mask.

Stanley is a shy, unassuming man who works in a bank and lives with Milo in a small apartment. One day, following a terrible bout with Murphy’s Law, Stanley finds a curious-looking mask floating amidst some debris in a river. Later, at home, when he finally gets around to trying the mask on, Stanley learns that this isn’t some archaeological curiosity. It has power – the power to transform. From the moment the mask clings to his skin and his face turns green, Stanley’s personality undergoes a radical shift. Insecurity is replaced by flamboyance. Physically, there seems to be little that he can’t do, from twisting his body into a pretzel to taking a bullet in the chest or forming a tommy gun out of a balloon.

jim-carreyWhile wearing the mask, Stanley makes a comment about becoming a superhero, but he’s really interested in one thing: Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz), a voluptuous nightclub singer who works for a local gangster (Peter Greene). Following a bank robbery (to finance his wooing), the Mask discovers that a cop, Lt. Mitch Kellaway (Peter Riegert), is hot on his trail. And it’s not that difficult a trail to follow. After all, how many lime-faced bandits are there who move like the Warner Brothers cartoon Tasmanian Devil? Carrey plays Stanley with surprising restraint, giving his zaniness free reign only when the mask is on. In some ways, it’s a Clark Kent/Superman thing. Stanley and the Mask might share the same body, but they’re very different. One is a typical nice guy who finishes last. The other is Robin Williams’ genie from Aladdin come to life (Carrey provides dozens of whirlwind impersonations).

As a comedy this is genial, but its recycled plot is far too thin for the film to succeed as either an adventure or a spoof. “Comic book” and “cartoon” are two terms that come to mind. Neither is intended to be a put down. Carrey is only in The Mask for 25-30 mins. But it’s good to see his serious stuff as well. Carrey is (mercifully) mostly-subdued except during those off-the-wall bursts of energy that accompany the appearance of the Mask. The film is entertaining enough — in a light, undemanding sort of way — but more than the combined efforts of Carrey, ILM, and Max are demanded to camouflage the seams and holes still apparent in this production. No one else could have played the part better.




  1. An excellent review of a comedy classic! Thanks for sharing! šŸ˜€

    I’ve always loved this film, particularly for introducing me to the song ‘Hey Pachuco’!

    Liked by 1 person

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