The Mask 1994
For a while, I was trying to figure out what I should watch next. I was thinking about watching some superhero movies with some relation to the holidays, but the only ones I could think of were Batman Returns which I already watched, and Elf Man which looks horrible. So, I just picked a random movie from my collection I hadn’t gotten around to yet: The Mask. I was never a huge fan of Jim Carrey’s old comedies even though I did watch them, and the catch phrases made their rounds at my school. This movie also has the distinction of being the debut of Cameron Diaz. It’s based on a Dark Horse comic, and it’s typically thought of as more of a zany comedy rather than a superhero movie, but it works for me.
One thing I had forgotten about this film is how dark it gets in places. There are a couple instances of blood and death with the mobsters, like the tech guy who gets shot during the bank heist and dies while trying to have his last cigarette, as well as the golf scene where the mob boss is showing the wannabe mob boss Dorian who’s really in charge by having his goons stick a golf tee in his mouth while he hits a golf ball off of it. There’s even a brief moment where the Mask is making baloon animals for some thugs trying to mug him and accidentally pulls out a condom instead. For such a cartoon inspired, and remembered in my head as a young skewing film, it was a little surprising to notice those moments, especially after the horrid memories of the sequel which can only be enjoyed by brains that haven’t fully formed.
The story of the movie is simple enough, boring bank drone Stanley Ipkis finds a mask that happens to contain the spirit of the Norse god Loki, who is more known for his mischief in this movie rather than his menace as seen in Thor or the Avengers. While wearing the mask, he becomes a superhero, able to create or do practically anything in his imagination, and luckily his imagination is filled with classic Tex Avery cartoons filled with sight gags and cartoon violence. But instead of using his powers to become a superhero, as he posits during an early scene, he instead uses his newfound powers for personal gain, using them for revenge against those who he felt has taken advantage of him in his mundane life as well as robbing a bank to get money to impress the beautiful singer Tina at the Coco Bongo club he was never able to get into as Stanley.
Throughout the movie, there are a few things that I thought didn’t make too much sense. Like if he was able to create and do pretty much anything as the Mask, why would he need money that he didn’t even appear to use except to create a distraction to get into the club, which he could have gotten into any number of ways? I also thought it was a stretch that the put upon police detective Callahan would immediately place the blame on Stanley Ipkis with nothing to go on except a piece of pajama fabric at the club and some quirky behavior at his apartment. There was also quite a bit of build up to when Dorian gets the mask, implying that he would be extremely powerful and/or dangerous with the mask, but it never really pays off. He only barely uses it to take his revenge on the mob boss even while some of his own gang lose their lives in the process.
Aside from those few qualms, this is a fun movie, especially if you’re a fan of classic Looney Tunes. As The Mask, Carrey feels often times like an early Bugs Bunny, or more likely an early Daffy Duck or Screwy Squirrel. He’s got the insane attitude and switches into many different characters with ease. There’s even the classic moment used often in Looney Tunes where he goes through an over the top dramatic moment, then is handed an Oscar equivalent while silhouettes of the audience applaud for him. There’s also plenty of other recognizable sight gags that I quite enjoyed. This movie really is Carrey at his comedic best, using his exaggerated facial gestures and manic sensibilities in a situation that makes it feel fun rather than stupid. He’s also so put upon as Stanley that the audience can easily allow him a little leeway towards his more selfish goals early on. As well as the fact that he suffers the consequences of those actions, albeit only briefly.
The movie does get a little unbelievable when he finally makes the turn where Stanley wants to help others rather than just himself, even in terms of a world where this magical mask exists. Even Dorian as the villain seemed a little out of place. He’s got his own little gang, and he’s set up to be somewhat of a mob middleman who wants to be the boss himself. But he never really seems to have any goals or motivations outside of that. There are references to him running his own deals behind the mob’s back in the club, but in the end he feels the need to blow up the club with no real explanation. There doesn’t appear to be any personal gain in it for himself, and there’s no one specific within the club that he’s getting rid of outside of Tina.
There’s also the whole love story subplot, because all Stanley is really looking for is someone to love, right? He’s got his choice of two women, the hot lounge singer Tina, played well by Diaz though it’s not exactly a difficult role, and the advice column writer who’s dying for a break to get into real reporting for the pay increase. Tina typically falls for the Mask, but also sees something in Stanley himself. Now that I think about it, there are a lot of different things going on in this movie, but it never really feels bogged down by any of them. They all weave together in a way that makes sense, and with plenty of laughs. I was unfortunately never too fond of the beleaguered detective Callahan and his dimwitted sidekick. They got a couple laughs out of me, but they didn’t feel funny enough to just be comic relief, and they were too silly to be taken seriously. But overall, it’s still a great movie and one of Carrey’s better 90’s comedies. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.