Movies We Like
It’s interesting to revisit Chuck Russell’s 1994 adaptation of The Mask, now almost 20 some-odd years later knowing that this was the second of three Jim Carrey movies (the other two being Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber) that would catapult the funnyman into super stardom. Also, considering that this is a far cry from the original comic book version of the character in which the Mask was conceived as a darker and more violent vigilante, who would’ve thought that when Dark Horse Comics first debuted the character he’d eventually spawn an animated series and kid friendly sequel?! But I digress…
In the movie, Jim Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a mild-mannered, overly nice and yet kind-of nerdy bank teller who, for the most part, can’t catch a break anywhere in his personal life. His female co-workers don’t want to date him (and in fact, take advantage of his niceness); his boss is always riding him (despite him being a model employee), and he’s even getting ripped off by his local mechanics. His best friend Charlie (the late Richard Jeni) believes in him, though, and tries to boost his confidence by bringing him out to the hot new club in Edge City, the Coco Bongo. Meanwhile, gangster (and Coco Bongo manager) Dorian Tyrell (Peter Greene) is plotting the hostile takeover of city turf from mob boss Niko once he and his crew have established their cred by pulling off a risky bank robbery.
After promptly getting ejected from the nightclub, Stanley Ipkiss spots what he thinks is a drowning victim in the lake only to find that it’s actually an antique green mask. When he gets home and is compelled to put it on, it transforms him into “The Mask,” or more accurately Loki, the Norse god of mischief. It completely amplifies Stanley’s traits to the umpteenth degree and he wastes no time getting a little revenge and getting into a little trouble. The longer he wears the Mask, the more aspects of his life start spiraling out of control. He robs a bank, the same bank Tyrell and his gang were eying (and where Stanley ironically enough works), hence making an enemy out of the mobster. Not to mention, the Mask has got his eye on Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz at her hottest), the singer at the Coco Bongo and girlfriend of Tyrell. He’s also got the police Lt. Kellaway hot on his trail. Can he control his new found power, set things right in Edge City, and get the girl?
In the original comic book, while Stanley Ipkiss was in fact the first person to don the persona of the Mask (or “Big Head” as he’s nicknamed), he’s almost a secondary character that ends up taking out a bunch of cops before getting killed rather quickly. Lt. Kellaway ends up getting the Mask and becomes the vigilante version of The Mask. So it’s interesting how the filmmakers opted to skew the story from the comics only using the basics such as certain characters’ names, but making it more of an original Jim Carrey-suited comedy. Without knowing about the source material, this just seems like a tailor-made project for Carrey, who was often referred to as “Rubber Face” during his stand-up days.
He plays Stanley as so sympathetic that you can’t help but root for him when he’s kicking ass, cracking jokes, or engaging in elaborate dance numbers as the Mask. But also, you want him to end up with one of the two incredibly attractive women that suddenly take an interest in him: Peggy Brandt, the newspaper journalist played by red-headed vixen Amy Yasbeck as she tries to get a lead on the Mask story for her paper and Cameron Diaz, the good girl who likes bad boys. Diaz made her first ever feature film appearance here and quite frankly looks her absolute best. It’s also fun to see what a tremendous over-actor Jim Carrey is in this, although that tends to work astoundingly in his favor for all the scenes in which he’s buried underneath all of the Mask make-up. I guess in retrospect, that’s why we fell in love with him in the first place! And much like with Ace Ventura, Carrey manages to created several catchphrases like “smokin’!” and “somebody stop me!” which have become synonymous with the character. Interesting side note – both Ace Ventura and The Mask spawned Saturday Morning Cartoons and there was even a cross over episode that featured both characters!
Another thing worth noting is how well all the CGI work holds up considering this was made back in 1994. Eyes popping out, his heart thumping out of his chest, the Mask turning into a literal hound dog in love; the FX are right out of an old Tex Avery cartoon. And because most of the digital FX gags pulled off in The Mask are done in such an over-the-top cartoon-ey way, it still works just fine and fits perfectly with the overall comedic tone of the film. And speaking of the comedic tone, I can’t forget to mention Milo, Stanley Ipkiss’s dog, who plays a major role in saving Stanley’s life a few times throughout the course of the film and who very well may don the Mask at one point himself.
For those who crave a tiny bit more of the movie, the DVD sports two deleted scenes – one, a brief back story scene with several Vikings banishing Loki, the god of mischief into the mask centuries before our story begins and the other showing an over-the-top comical death scene for the Peggy character. While both are fun to see, they both would’ve felt out of place in the actual movie hence making it obvious why they’re not in the final film.
Overall, The Mask satisfies on several levels. It’s a great Jim Carrey comedy. It’s a decent comic book adaptation and it’s a fun, kid-friendly superhero movie as well.
Fun fact: Prior to The Mask, director Chuck Russell also helmed the well regarded 1986 remake of The Blob (scripted by Frank Darabont), as well as A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors, considered by most Freddy Krueger fans to be the best of the sequels!