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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: The Mask (1994), ITV2

The Mask
Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Joely Fisher, Peter Greene
Genre: Dark Fantasy Superhero Comedy
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $350 million 

Plot: When timid bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss discovers a magical mask containing the spirit of the Norse God, Loki, his entire life changes. While wearing the mask, Ipkiss becomes a supernatural playboy exuding charm and confidence, which allows him to catch the eye of local nightclub singer, Tina Carlyle. Unfortunately, under the Mask's influence, Ipkiss also robs a bank, which angers junior crime lord Dorian Tyrell, whose goons get blame for the heist.

'Conceivably Jim Carrey's Finest'

The Mask isn't just an exceptional effort, but it is also a highly amusing one to boot as well; Jim Carrey's rubber-faced antics are on full show and truly he is at his best as the so-called unlucky loser, the mild-mannered Stanley Ipkiss. He was wacky in Ace Ventura, OTT wacky as Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber, showed off his acting chops in Liar Liar and here he displays a bit of all three, whilst further aided by terrific special effects. This movie is very much about Jim Carrey, moreso than the other actors and characters who play second fiddle to Carrey's Ipkiss/The Mask, who becomes a crime-fighting superhero when he puts on the green mask. 

Even though it is based on the comic book, I got the feeling as I watching this comic book come to life, the visual and cartoony effects are reminiscent of the Tex Avery cartoons; it was so jaw-dropping (not just for The Mask as you will see in one scene, literately!), I was stunned the first time I saw this movie, which was a long time ago at the visual and special effects. It looked so impressive. The Mask himself is a cartoonish and comical-type of superhero, and in putting on that mask it brings out the innermost desires out of Stanley Ipkiss, -of which he discovers and finds in the river late, one night. 

The Mask's role, for me, is like Robin Williams's Genie act in Aladdin, combined with the prosthetic make-up from Mrs Doubtfire: hence, Jim as Stanley dons a mask, Robin as Daniel dresses up as Mrs Doubtfire and the transformation act from Stanley to The Mask as symbolised by the special effects is almost like Aladdin's Genie magically appearing and disappearing out of the lamp. 

Jim Carrey was only paid the sum of $450,000 for starring in this film, which went on to gross over $300 million. The Mask is also one of three films released of his in 1994 that became the most successful compared to Ace Ventura and Dumb & Dumber, both commercially and critically speaking. This film and his protagonist role was tailor-made for Carrey. And whilst this movie catapulted Jim to stardom, it also carved a new and future star in Cameron Diaz, whose career is marred by some good efforts, as well as some not-so-good efforts.

It's a shame what has happened to Jim Carrey's career since the 1990s: he was somewhat touted as the next big thing after Robin Williams in terms of comedians-turned-actor superstars to have a hugely successful film career, but over the past decade, this has stalled. Though he was occasionally amusing as an alien in 80s sci-fi musical, Earth Girls Are Easy. And it's a pity, seeing as I enjoyed him in this movie, Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber. He did star in the highly acclaimed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but other than that, especially comedy- roles wise in Ace Ventura, Dumb & Dumber and this film, he hasn't had more of the right projects to further harness his talents. But mostly, he has since resorted to doing voice-over roles in animated movies. But then again, I think movie directors and writers didn't produce the types of movies he would have been ideally suited for. 

This movie is a great entertaining blend of action, humour and comedy with comic book & Tex Avery cartoon shenanigans and it's fun seeing Jim Carrey clowning around, whilst still being a superhero bad-ass at the same time. The main highlight for me was when The Mask broke into song and started singing some calypso number and the cops joined in the dance. 

Carrey was over-the-top evil as The Riddler in Batman Forever, but that film received mostly lukewarm to negative feedback for descending into a more camp -yet less dark fantasy, which marred the Batman franchise. Although the series has since redeemed itself right from Batman Begins onwards under Christopher Nolan. Yet as The Mask, Jim Carrey is hyperactive, manic and over-the-top in a good guy fashion and as Stanley Ipkiss; shy, in-confident who is a pushover & yet is natural and pleasing. His split, double act role as he switches between both characters is well played out. Stanley's love interest, Tina played by Diaz didn't really impress me right off the bat, but I guess Diaz filled all the credentials the casting directors were looking for as that character. But I loved Milo - that canine is so smart. 

The plot, whilst in one sense doesn't matter much, is still an interesting one in the telling of the story and of Stanley's antics, both as himself and as The Mask. What really excels though are the special effects, the comical tone to it, which as over-the-top as it is, it makes so much sense in this film, unlike say in Batman Forever and it accompanies and compliments Carrey's brand of humour, and of course Jim Carrey's performance. The musical score sounds very much like something out of the Batman movies of the 1990s. In terms of the serious aspects and when the film tries to be dramatic, it becomes slightly weak and the story lines which don't involve Stanley are bland and uninteresting. & with that, the film stutters. But much like with Jim's personality, the film bursts into life with colour, fun, charm and entertainment. 

With movies such as The Mask and Mystery Men, the superhero movie genre during the 1990s was a lot more diversive and studios back then tried new things and took risks, compared to today's predominately Marvel and DC comics offerings. 

Final Verdict:

Creatively & highly ambitious, entertaining and amusing in parts; plus, this is Jim Carrey at his peak and probably the last and best we have seen of his comedic talents. The Mask prevails because of star performer Jim Carrey, whose manic energy was restrained in parts and his comedic abilities were fully utilized, thanks to this duel role. No doubt for me this is my favourite role of his and he deserved and should have obtained bigger and colourful roles, such as this one in his career. 

Even when it slightly deviates from the comic books slightly dark-ish undertones, The Mask is still an outright terrific and memorable comic book style comedy film that does pretty much everything right by the (comic) book. 


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