19 December 1999 | Spleen
How to cast Jim Carrey
It's hard to use Jim Carrey in a movie. He's very good at his rapid-fire mimicry routine, but how can it ever be anything other than a diversion from both character and story? (Very rarely is it a pleasant diversion. `Ace Ventura' was unendurable.) And yet, what else can you do with him?
The `Mask' solves the problem so neatly it almost cheats. The story is ABOUT someone with a double life - so by day, Carrey does all the character and story stuff, and by night, wearing the mask, he does his stand-up schtick. The two are as integrated as they need to be. It's pulled off with such an air of innocence I can't possibly complain. SOME of the clichés (those to do with the police especially) are so very worn out that even the most thorough of movie-goers is surprised to find them still alive; but the writer seems to have been honestly unaware that they were clichés, so that's okay.
I was told that the film is saturated with animation in-jokes. I couldn't spot very many. Stanley-with-the-mask has the soul of a Tex Avery cartoon character: I suspect that's all there is to it. The computer animation, or the computer-enhancement of Carrey's animation, is tastefully done. It never looks pasted over the top of the footage the way so much computer animation does. (`The Mask' failed to win an Oscar in the special effects category - like so many other more deserving films, it was beaten by `Forrest Gump'.) The Cuban dance numbers are irresistible, as is Stanley's pet dog. Sure, `The Mask' is no masterpiece, but it's a clever, charming film that richly deserved its runaway success.