The Mask (1994) / Comedy-Fantasy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Jeni, Ben Stein (cameo)
Director: Charles (Chuck) Russell
Screenplay: Mike Werb (based on the comic book published by Dark Horse Comics)
Review published May 21, 1997

Jim Carrey (Dumb & Dumber, Batman Forever) stars as bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss, a nice guy, but also, a total loser. One day, Stanley stumbles across a strange wooden mask which turns out to have magical powers, accentuating the wearer's personality and bestowing almost unlimited powers to affect reality. When Stanley puts it on, he becomes a sort of character from a Tex Avery cartoon, of which Stanley is a big fan of. He ends up stealing money from the bank he works in right before a local crime lord (Greene, Pulp Fiction) does, which causes them to come after him. In the meantime, he woos the gangster's girlfriend (Diaz, My Best Friend's Wedding) as his new alter-ego, The Mask.

The Mask is quite a mixed bag; the characters are poorly developed and the writing by Mike Werb (Face/Off, Tomb Raider)  is fair at best. The bad guys lack presence, as does Riegert (Animal House, Local Hero) as the detective trying to crack the case. The gangster scenes are also darker and far more violent than they needed to be considering the lightness of the rest of the movie.

On the plus side, the movie does come to life whenever Stanley becomes The Mask, and the leads shine during those brief, but highly memorable moments. Terrific special effects and dynamite music also raise the film above its derivative roots, and Carrey is a marvel. Budding star Cameron Diaz makes an impressive debut as well, and you gotta love Stanley's dog, Milo. As a movie, perhaps The Mask leaves much to be desired in the storytelling department,  but through ceaseless energy and inventiveness, it manages to be entertaining comic book fluff.

-- Followed by a short-lived animated TV series and a dreadful Carrey-less sequel, Son of the Mask (2005).

Qwipster's rating:

1997 Vince Leo