You know and I know that Jim Carrey’s schtick got old. After he played the same character for the seventy-fifth time we were all sick of it. I’m going to say that that was when he played The Riddler in that Batman movie with Val Kilmer, though that may have only been seventy-two, or even seventy-one movies after The Mask, I don’t remember. They all blend together. Even Carrey got sick of it, eventually trying to reinvent himself in films as wannabe-serious as The Truman Show and Man in the Moon. Did that work out for him? I honestly didn’t pay enough attention to have an opinion one way or another, after a certain point.
The Jim Carrey schtick wasn’t old yet when he starred in The Mask, though. It is not surprising that everybody loved this performance back then. This comic book wasn’t created specifically for Carrey to star in the movie adaptation of, but it could have been. There was also the relative newness, at the time, of his schtick — let’s stop calling it, generically, “schtick” and call it what it was: audacious and grandiloquent and perfectly-timed insincerity layered on top of embittered vulnerability, for the win. Carrey really was a cartoon character come to life. In 1994, nobody had ever seen anything quite like him.
What is surprising is that the thing still holds up almost twenty years, and lots of bad Jim Carrey films (eighty? ninety? a thousand?), later. I hadn’t expected to laugh out loud watching The Mask again, but I did. His very first caper, when he tries to sneak past his landlady’s door using big, balletic, fake-tiptoeing steps, only to be foiled by the bouncing alarm clock that jumps out of his pocket, that he has to swat down with a ten-foot-long mallet, also from his pocket, made me emit an abrupt, three-noted, barking laugh. That’s the best you’re going to get out of me when I’m sitting alone at my kitchen table watching a movie on my laptop. I kept laughing, awkwardly and overloudly (again, remember, sitting alone in my kitchen, with noise-canceling headphones on) from time to time throughout the course of the movie, and not just at Carrey when he was The Mask. Also at Carrey as Stanley Ipkiss. Cameron Diaz, and the truculent cop played by Peter Reigert, got to me occasionally, too, with their humorous behavior and/or way of speaking and/or actual words. My dogs were not sure what to think. They didn’t like it. Me sitting there by myself laughing.
Like The Rocketeer, The Mask, as a franchise, hasn’t benefited from the kind of slow burn, constant-exposure mode that we like to see in a superhero franchise. Spider-Man, Batman, and those other Marvel and DC characters, all keep themselves alive through the decades by having a constant presence, and a constant stream of new stories being told about them away from the eyes of (most of) the public, in the form of comic books. Those comic books may not seem important to the average moviegoer, but they do keep the character up-to-date as time flies by, and (maybe even more importantly), they provide lots of fodder for screenwriters. The X-Men movies, for example, are basically a Cliff’s Notes version of thirty years’ worth of Chris Claremont comic book scripts. There hasn’t been a comic book starring The Mask in a long time, as far as I know. There hasn’t been much of anything done with this great character. There was the cartoon series shortly after the movie came out. There was another movie, starring some other dude, that I never bothered to see. And that’s it. This seems weird to me, given that the credited creator of the character,
Jamie Mike Richardson, is also the publisher and founder of Dark Horse, the “third publisher of the Big Two” of the comic book industry.
Not that I ever read any of the comics in the first place. Maybe nobody did. Maybe that’s the reason there aren’t any more of them. No big, whatever. The movie, though is an under-appreciated classic. Run out and rent it tonight. It’s not on Netflix streaming, but you can get it from Amazon Instant Video (which is what I did), or from Vudu (which is what I did not do).
As you might imagine from the title, this post is the seventh in a series of ten. You will find more posts in this series behind the “More” link, below.