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June 25, 2012

Movie Mondays: Son of the Mask

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Written by: AHudson

Title: Son of the Mask
Director: Lawrence Guterman
Writer: Lance Khazei (created by John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke, and Mike Richardson)
Distributed By: New Line Cinema
Starring: Jamie Kennedy, Alan Cumming, Traylor Howard, and Bob Hoskins
Release Date: February 11th, 2005

After floating through the Edge City’s ocean and winding up in Fringe City, the mask is picked up by Otis the dog and brought home to his owners, Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy), a struggling cartoonist, and Tonya Avery (Traylor Howard), a successful business woman ready to start a family with her husband. Tim uses the mask persona at a Halloween party to impress his coworkers, and winds up getting his wife pregnant later that night (probably the strangest sex ever). The mask’s powers get passed on to the baby, who has a head full of cartoons and an arsenal full of antics. What’s worse, is the fact that the mask’s creator, Loki (Alan Cumming), is sent by his father, Odin (Bob Hoskins), to find the mask. And between Tim’s week alone with the baby and being tracked down by Loki, spilled milk won’t be the only thing he’ll be crying over.

Son of the Mask came out over ten years after the first film, starred a brand new lead with a brand new story line, and had a February release date. So in other words, it was destined to be a failure. And oh boy, did it ever bomb. Not only was it a box office failure with only $57 million worldwide (out of an $84 million budget), it only got a 6% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, was this the case of a truly awful film that failed in every aspect? Or was this simply a film that was plagued with bad luck and unfairly pitted against an amazing first film?

It might have been seven years since its release but…SotM is still a flop for several different reasons.

For starters, this really is a completely different film than The Mask. Rather than taking place in the slick, gritty Edge City, this film takes place in 50s-style suburban Fringe City. A change of location might seem like a trivial thing, but it really does have a big impact on the story. Gone is the noir, the urban theme, and the Coco Bongo club. Instead of the neon-noir, we now have retro-suburb. Which means that instead of being a PG-13 film that’s crass but always class, we have a PG film that’s kooky and a little too spooky.

Dog vs. baby isn't funny in live-action…or real life.

That’s the biggest change. The theme is also completely different from The Mask, in the sense that it’s now one of those “[not] fun for the whole family” kind of films. Yes, The Mask is kid friendly, but here’s the difference. The Mask isn’t kid tailored, Son of the Mask is. The plot, the jokes, and even the characters are written in a desperate attempt to get some six-year-old kids to laugh. And perhaps some of them will find this hilarious. But I don’t think the parents are going to enjoy watching this.

Actually, I take that back. SotM even tries some desperate jokes to make the parents laugh. And I hate parent humor. Jokes about a baby waking up parents at 3 a.m.? Check. Jokes about changing diapers gone horribly wrong? Check. Jokes about a couple considering parenthood visiting a friend’s house where children are running wild? Check. SotM makes me wish people would stop having sex. Because if people stopped having sex, there would be no babies. Without babies, there would be no parents. And without parents, the rest of us parentless people wouldn’t have to suffer through inept family comedies about parenthood.

Pee-wee Herman just got a whole lot creepier.

Even with bad jokes, a well-written script can carry things the whole way through. Unfortunately, even the script doesn’t hold up. To be fair, I think there are a lot of creative ideas with the story. Despite the concept flat-out failing, it was still a pretty ballsy move to change the setting to Fringe city and focus it on a family rather than a single person; and although it was unnecessary, I admit that adding Loki and his search for the mask kept the plot moving. Unfortunately, these ideas fall completely flat. There were some moments, such as when Tim and Tonya Avery have a discussion about Tim’s reluctance to have a family, because of his dreams to be a cartoonist, that show that the film could’ve been decent if had taken itself a little more seriously. Too bad these genuine moments only last for a few seconds at the most.

Along with a bad script, the film had mis-casted actors  who were forced to work with unworkable parts. I like Jamie Kennedy, whether it’s Malibu’s Most Wanted or The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, but in this film he just doesn’t work. Especially when he transforms into The Mask. With Jim Carrey’s The Mask, there was a certain unpredictability to the character that kept you guessing what would happen next. But this Mask acts like a predictable hero with a bag full of bad puns. The chemistry between Kennedy and Traylor Howard is just as bad, with the marriage being just as unbelievable as when they apply uncanny CGI to the baby. Alan Cumming’s Loki is just OK, and even Bob Hoskins couldn’t save this film.

Bob Hoskins stars in the prequel to Thor.

However, the film’s biggest flaw by far is its humor. What made The Mask so good is the same thing that works for other great comedies. The humor serves the story and the story serves the humor. With Son of the Mask, however, the humor falls flat and feels agonizing. They’re just throwing every bad and redundant joke out there in the hopes that something sticks. Take the dance scenes. With The Mask‘s cop samba scene, the scene before it sets it up perfectly, Carrey’s comedic timing couldn’t be more perfect, and each joke is uniform and made to work together. With Son of the Mask‘s party dance scene, while the scene does make sense in the story, there’s no buildup, Kennedy’s Mask fails to hit the punchlines, and it’s just a bad string of nonsensical jokes jumbled together.

Ultimately, whether you want to blame the shoddy script, childish humor, dated CGI, or the over-use of cartoon homages, Son of the Mask is a big mess. I admit, SotM has an unfair disadvantage since it’s the sequel to The Mask, and thus there will always be comparisons to the 90s classic. Nevertheless, it is a pretty bad film, and yet more proof that comedies revolving around babies should avoid being made.

Andrew Hudson



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