Title: The Mask
Director: Chuck Russell
Writers: Mike Werb, Michael Fallon, and Mark Verheiden (created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke)
Distributed By: New Line Cinema
Starring: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, and Peter Greene
Release Date: July 29th, 1994
Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) is a nice guy, a decent man, and an all around sucker. With his submissive behavior and bad strokes of luck, he hasn’t had much fortune in life. Until one day when he stumbles upon a mask that has the power to transform him into The Mask, an extroverted and mischievous version of himself that knows the moves and how to get the beautiful singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz). However, when his shenanigans at the bank put him at odds with mobster Dorian Tyrell (Peter Green) and Lt. Mitch Kellaway, Stanley Ipkiss finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for.
When it came to the mid-nineties comedies, you couldn’t really get much bigger than Jim Carrey. With movies like Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Carrey proved that he was more than just “the white guy on In Living Color” and could be a formidable box office king. He’s had a lot of big hits (and disaster flops), but perhaps the most memorable of them all is The Mask.
It’s been almost twenty years (sigh) since it came out, and usually two decades is enough time to tell if it’s good or if it’s merely a sign of the times. The Mask is a film that still has plenty of charm and doesn’t fall flat on humor.
What makes this film work is that this really is one of Carrey’s best performances. This is the kind of role that requires comedic timing, wit, and physical comedy, all of which Carrey aces in. But it’s more than merely being funny. It’s about being able to pull of two different roles. You have Stanley Ipkiss, the very definition of the nice guy. And The Mask, which is the id to Ipkiss’ superego. With Ipkiss, Carey gives a quiet wit with a slight snark underneath. And with The Mask, Carrey fires on all comedic barrels.
Bonus points if you heard the famous quote playing in your head after seeing this picture.
The rest of the supporting cast is solid. Cameron Diaz’s first role as the seductress Tina Carlyle, Peter Green as slick mobster villain Dorian Tyrell, Peter Riegert as no nonsense Lt. Mitch Kellaway, and everyone else in this solid ensemble (including the funny, dry Ben Stein). They all play their roles well, although this is a “supporting” cast in the literal sense, since almost every line and action is made for Jim Carrey to respond to and hit out of the ballpark.
The dress was designed by Betelgeuse.
Aside from a terrific lead, a solid cast, and a well-written script, this film has slick style and lots of it. Nineties style, that is. To some, this will be an annoyance, and to others such as myself, this film is a reminder of why the nineties rocked. The film’s lighting and direction shares many of the same sensibilities with films such as Dick Tracy, Burton/Schumacher Batman films, The Shadow, Cool World, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. You know the term “neo-noir”? Well these films would fall under the category of “neon-noir.” Neon-noir are films styled with bright, vivid coloring, strong use of lighting (and sometimes fog machines), modern art deco, and a mix between the forties/fifties and modern times (especially when it comes to mixing nineties music with big band jazz). Also, like some of its neon-noir contemporaries, The Mask certainly has classic cartoon influences and is not afraid to display it, whether it comes to the cartoons displayed on the TV or The Mask’s howling wolf animation.
You can get into this club if you happen to be friends with Franklin, Grant, and Jackson.
Speaking of animation, the special effects here still hold up well. For the time it was amazing, but even now I can’t but help ask myself “How did they do it?” The only effects that have aged without grace are some of the 3-D effects, such as when The Mask pulls out an arsenal of weapons. Still, it’s not the worst nineties 3D I’ve ever seen.
You can have the spot on jokes, the beautiful cinematography, and even the special effects extravaganza. However, it’s not a nineties blockbuster without one key component. The music. The Mask doesn’t have one but instead two soundtracks. There’s the music soundtrack, which is a nice blend of modern R&B with a touch of big jazz. Then there’s the orchestral soundtrack by Randy Edelman, which is incredible and also has a hint of forties/fifties jazz.
Movie Rule #577: Don't trust anything that's been locked in a box for centuries. Especially if it's a mask or a board game.
There’s nothing major I have to complain about with The Mask. Sure, the plot occasionally forces the characters to act dumb, such as when Tina Carlyle convinces Dorian Tyrell to take the mask off for a kiss. But that’s a given with comedies like these. What’s rare here, is a film that delivers a spectacular display of wit, humor, and style on all fronts. The Mask is a film of its own, and is definitely one of the best films of the nineties.