Rating: B, for the BEST
Summary: A Less-Than-Average Joe finds a mask which allows him to become the opposite of himself.
Guys, this movie turned 25 years old this past July and it’s on HBO. If you haven’t already seen it for some reason or if it’s been a while, watch this. It’s been a few years for me (at least 15), it’s still good, it’s still hilarious, and- there’s just so much more to appreciate as an adult and as someone who is interested in understanding how things get made. There is a lot about this movie that can easily get overlooked due to the outrageousness of it all- Stanley Ipkiss finds a mask which transforms him into part Looney Tunes, part superhero. Even the perfect casting of Jim Carrey and what makes Stanley such a special character gets swept under the rug. But upon my first viewing upon this as an adult, it’s come to my attention just how clever this movie is, how underrated Carrey is as an actor, and how much escaped my attention when I was a kid.
I need to start with Carrey, because this movie just perfectly captures exactly what he’s good at and his casting helped the film get away with a lot of things that sounded wrong on paper- his abilities make sense, or at least give a starting point to all the wackiness. Even the dance number makes sense!
Of course, there’s the Mask character of this movie and that makes up for most of what we know Carrey for today, but for every big and loud scene he has the Mask, there’s a quieter, nuanced scene as Stanley to match. I really do think this is one of his best movies and most overlooked. You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, and at the same time, he brings the sense that there is something special about Stanley just waiting for the right chance. There is quite a bit of little tricks that show us just how repressed Stanley is- rather than someone pointing out Stanley’s weaknesses, we see him pause and retreat in various situations, giving just enough to show that he’s timid but knows he needs to stand up for himself. Carrey brings this simultaneous loneliness and eagerness to him that I don’t think anyone else could have provided. That being said, if someone were to propose a remake of this today, they would have an extremely hard time casting this. Carrey had a rare combination of charisma, affability, and relatability that made his timing and delivery that much more special.
There are plenty of holes in the movie (does anyone ever go back to a bank to say they’ve changed their mind about a savings account?), but there are a lot of things I didn’t recognize before- like the whole addiction aspect, the face you wear in public and at home, or even the many sexual innuendos. On a deeper level, there’s a whole commentary on masculinity as well as what hero stuff is made of. Stanley’s foil comes in the form of Dorian, a charismatic gangster who has a lot of money and the hot girlfriend- everything Stanley is not- and both of their ideas of “a man” or masculinity manifests when they put on the Mask. It’s pretty amazing how well this movie has aged, considering how weird it is. The above commentary aside, most of the jokes carry over and the special effects (ILM) look pretty good for early 90’s (minus the sky vortex at one point). Everything they do with the dog in the last few minutes still holds up.
Not that they really needed that many, as Carrey wore prosthetics and fake teeth and supposedly saved the production a ton of money they would have otherwise spent on CG. He really makes this entire movie worth watching. Note to self, watch more Jim Carrey movies.