Yes, that’s a reference to a 23 year old Michelle Pfeiffer movie, but today we’re talking about a 25 year old Jim Carrey movie! The second of three huge Jim Carrey releases in the biggest year of his career, The Mask is 25 years old today. If you decide to do a re-watch, and I recommend that you do, you will notice right away that the movie hasn’t really lost a step. It still looks fantastic. The CGI and practical effects are outstanding, the colors are vibrant, everything pops, and the outfits look good enough that the movie almost justifies the swing revival. Hey, I said almost.
Based on the much darker Dark Horse comic book, The Mask is the story of Stanley Ipkiss, a hapless loser who one day discovers the mask of Loki. When he puts on the mask he is transformed into the eponymous character, a combination of Stanley’s id and the influence of the Norse trickster god. He ticks off a local crime syndicate, flirts with Cameron Diaz in her debut role, and ultimately takes down the crime boss and saves the day, plus Stanley gets the girl.
A lot of the computer animation is based upon old Tex Avery cartoons, an influence that is made explicit in Stanley’s love cartoons. This was an interesting move since the target audience for the movie was probably familiar with Loony Tunes and Disney cartoons, but likely had never heard of Avery’s work. I know that they were new to me at the time. The influence is ideally paired with Jim Carrey’s physical comedy. This is the first movie that really used Carrey’s elasticity as a major trait of the character, and it allows him to pull of Avery cartoon gags without relying entirely on the CGI to sell it.
Let’s look at a couple of scenes that I consider to be among the best in the movie.
Stanley’s Initial Transformation
There’s no better place to start than with the introduction of The Mask. This scene gives the audience an idea of what the Mask is capable of, while also showing them how Carrey is going to play it. It announces that we’re playing by cartoon rules in a three dimensional space, and that space is clothed in zoot suits.
The scene also introduces one of the greatest catchphrases in movie history and a comedy open mic staple:
The Mask and Tina Meet
I love this scene, so so much. Maybe you’re a dancer; I’m not. I am a human though (Killer reference!) On the limited occasions where I allowed myself to cut loose, I imagined that it was going a little something like the above. It probably wasn’t, or it absolutely was and The Mask looks like a clown here. I refuse to consider the latter. It’s a vibrant, fun scene, the bright yellow zoot suit is a perfect choice, and oddly reminiscent of Dick Tracy and Breathless in Lips Manlis/Big Boy’s club. The band in the scene is the Royal Crown Revue, the song “Hey Pacheco!” To top it off, Reg Cathey dies in the middle of the scene!
C’mon now, it wasn’t like I was going to end this appreciation of The Mask without mentioning Milo. Milo, of course, is Stanley’s Jack Russell terrier, wearer of the mask, and contributor to saving the day. Milo doesn’t do a whole lot with the mask on, but he looks good doing it. Between Eddie and Milo, Jack Russells have to be in the running for top television and film dogs of the 1990s. Am I leaving any other Jack Russells out? I also love that even though Stanley find his courage here without the mask, he fights like a cartoon character. It’s a nice touch.
Hey, that was The Mask, leaving us 2/3 of the way through Jim Carrey’s blockbuster 1994. It’s great, and you should watch it again.
What’s your favorite 1994 Jim Carrey movie? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.