Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 1994
Directed by: Charles Russell
Genre: Comedy / Crime / Fantasy
Actor Jim Carrey was first introduced to the world through his role as the misguided character in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” but it was the 1994 comedy “The Mask” that helped Carrey earn his ranking as one of Hollywood’s best — and most elastic — comedy stars. The film is now several decades old, and it is time to take a look at this iconic, classic comedy to see if it holds up to contemporary standards.
Mild-mannered Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) spends most of his life suppressing his emotions and going along with the events around him, whether he is dealing with an overly critical boss or an excessively cranky landlord. Then, he accidentally discovers a mysterious artifact: a wooden mask that, when worn, transforms him into the hero he has always wanted to become. When Stanley Ipkiss wears the mask, he is able to confront a street gang, take down a group of gangsters who are planning to bomb a charity ball and, most importantly, learn how to express his feelings to those around him.
Once Stanley has confronted his landlord and his boss about their bad behavior and figured out how to build a relationship with love interest Tina Carlyle (played by Cameron Diaz in her feature film debut), he realizes he no longer needs the mask. He and Tina throw the mask into the harbor, where it is later rescued by Stanley’s dog Milo in preparation for a sequel.
When the film was first released in 1994, it was lauded for its special effects and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Though it lost the Oscar to “Forrest Gump,” the effects still hold up even two decades later. In fact, they are the film’s greatest strength. The plot itself is pretty standard, but what one takes away from “The Mask” is its imagery.
Every scene involving the titular mask is captivating and, in many cases, visually iconic. The vivid green mask gives Jim Carrey the opportunity to play a hero who is also a larger-than-life cartoon. The mask’s eyes bug out, the jaw drops, the tongue unfurls and the face contorts into all kinds of ridiculous and evocative expressions. Certain scenes in “The Mask” are unforgettable, such as the scene during which the wooden mask slowly wraps itself around Stanley’s head as he frantically attempts to remove it. It is the effects, not the plot, that make “The Mask” worth watching decades after it was originally filmed.
What makes “The Mask” extra appealing is the fact that the majority of the mask work outside of the special effects was performed by Carrey himself. There are scenes during which the mask’s eyes literally pop out of its head, but there are also scenes during which the elasticity and expression of the mask come directly from Jim Carrey’s performance. This film launched Carrey’s career not only because of his comedic timing and acting ability but also due to his sheer capacity to contort his face and his body into outrageous and unbelievable attitudes.
Lastly, one should not forget about the catchphrases introduced by the film. A generation of children grew up calling out “Smokin!” and “Oooh… somebody stop me!” thanks to Carrey’s over-the-top line delivery. Although these catchphrases tend to date the film, they also provide a sense of nostalgia to viewers who enjoyed “The Mask” during their childhood.
It is this same target audience that will most appreciate “The Mask” today. The film’s superhero plot and larger-than-life images are designed to appeal to children and preteen audiences. The film is perfectly pitched to this age group as it includes crazy visual effects, a few gross-out scenes and enough double entendres and grown-up references to appeal to kids who are on the cusp of adolescence. It also contains a sense of justice that kids naturally find appealing. Stanley uses the mask not only to save the city from a group of evil gangsters but also to get back at the people in his life who are mean to him. Although the film is about adults, in many ways it can be viewed as a children’s film.
“The Mask” certainly deserves a viewing. Although the plot is fairly predictable and trite, the special effects and the absolutely superlative performance given by Jim Carrey make “The Mask” well worth watching even for viewers who have already seen it. Some viewers will want to re-watch “The Mask” for nostalgia while others will enjoy showing this classic film to a new generation of children.
In Honor of Superhero Month – Win Captain America’s Shield Plus The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray Before It’s Released! Enter Here!!