'90s Movie Month! "The Mask" Review

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Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) has a stand-offish personality and lets everyone walk all over him. After he finds a mysterious mask, enchanted with other-wordly powers, he takes on an alternate persona with no problem being the center of attention and getting the girl.
3.5

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'90 Movie Month! "The Mask" Review

Rating: PG-13 (some stylized violence)
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 1994
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Genre: Comedy/Crime/Fantasy

If no good deed goes unpunished, then Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) is being punished daily for his series of good deeds. He works as a low-level loan officer at a bank full of shark-like businessmen who have lied and cheated their way to the top. Stanley remains at the bottom rung at work and in life because he is just too good a person. That all changes one day when one of his good deeds finally pays off for him in a big and unexpected way in "The Mask."

Stanley is driving home from a club he was denied entrance to, dejected and ready to spend another night alone. While crossing a bridge, he sees what he thinks is a body floating in the water and dives in to try and save that person's life. It turns out the body is just a bunch of detritus and a weird-looking mask. He takes the mask home and tries it on, and it instantly turns him into a new person. Instead of Stanley, the audience now gets to root for the Mask, a bizarre green-faced superhero who has charm and charisma to spare and won't take no for an answer, especially from the upscale club he was just turned away from.

The Mask returns to the Coco Bongo Club, where he spies Tina (Cameron Diaz), who happens to be the girlfriend of Dorian Tyrel (Peter Greene), a notorious gangster. When the Mask tries to romance her, Dorian gets more than a little angry, especially when the budding romance complicates his plans for a heist at the bank where Stanley works. The Mask responds by outrunning and outsmarting the bad guys, always staying one step ahead by bouncing off of walls and causing all kinds of hilarious mayhem. Will the Mask be able to bring the bad guys to justice, and if he does, what will happens to poor Stanley in the aftermath?

It isn't every day that an actor makes the type of meteoric rise to prominence that Jim Carrey did in the early 1990s. Some of that initial success can be attributed to 1994's "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," but "The Mask," which was released just months later, took him to the next level. Even fans who had seen Carrey during his four-year stint on the Fox sketch comedy "In Living Color" had never seen the actor quite as rubber-faced as he is in this film. His ability to mug for the camera, even without the special effects provided via computer tinkering, is absolutely stunning. His extreme energy is also impressive, as it looks like Carrey was on a sugar high for almost the entire movie. It's a star-making performance that nobody could have seen coming, even as the funnyman toiled for years in film and television. The kudos and success that followed this film were well deserved.

Carrey wasn't the only one who had his breakout role in "The Mask," though. It was also the feature-film debut of costar Diaz, who had previously only appeared in a single short film. Her sultry blonde looks and expert comic timing earned her rave reviews. It isn't often that Carrey nearly gets upstaged in a film, but Diaz nearly does it here, more than holding her own against the manic comic actor. Even though Tina is the girlfriend of the villain, she has a heart of gold and a real conscience that comes through because of Diaz, who imbues her with a touch of innocence even as she flirts heavily with the Mask.

"The Mask" wasn't the first time that live action and animation were combined in the same film—the superb "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" is a prime example—but it showed just how entertaining film can be when the boundaries of both genres are tested. One scene, in which the Mask first lays eyes on Tina, is one of the best examples on film of how to meld live action and animation together. The Mask's eyes pop out of his head, and his jaw quite literally drops to the floor, while his heart looks like it will burst from his chest like the creature from "Alien." This is reminiscent of cartoons from yesteryear in which every emotion was an overreaction, complete with fun graphics. Combining this older animated look with live actors creates a unique experience that is fun for adults and children alike. That's what made the film a huge hit when it was released and what still makes it fun to watch nearly twenty years after its debut.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5