The Mask (1994)

the-mask-1994Based on the ultra-violent underground comic book of the same name, “The Mask” is a perfect vehicle for Jim Carrey at the peak of his career. In 1994, star Jim Carrey was capable of being in anything he wanted, and “The Mask” propelled him in to the image of an actor who could transform in to a living cartoon. “The Mask” is not at all faithful to the source material, aiming more toward the PG crowd, while dropping enough adult overtones to appeal to a broader audience. Much in the way Looney Tunes and MGM cartoon shorts once did. Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a normal banker who lives alone with his dog Milo and disappears in to his love for classic cartoons on his spare time. After a bad night at a local night club, he finds a mysterious mask floating in the ocean and takes it home.

Much to his shock, the mask gives him magical powers including being able to manifest in to a living and breathing cartoon. Using his mysterious abilities and new daring persona, The Mask gets back at all the people that made Stanley’s life absolutely miserable. But when he robs a bank, he crosses the gang of a major mob boss and accidentally gets their attention, prompting their boss Dorian to try to steal the artifact and gain power over the crime world. The persona of the mask is always morally ambiguous, completely capable of corrupting Stanley, and soon he has to figure out if he wants what the mask has to offer him in the long run. “The Mask” came during a period where Hollywood saw no money in making comic book movies. What comic books were brought on to the live action screen, were tailored for families and a wider audience, instead.

I don’t know if the original comic could have amounted to a great movie, but the end result is a solid comedy with some genuinely funny moments in its own right. Carrey is at his best here, wearing a green mask that allows him to be expressive under some very thick make up. Director Russell makes good use of Carrey’s physical abilities and great comic timing, allowing the character go hog wild. There are some raucous moments, including the mask storming a club with a dance number, and running afoul Dorian and his gang with some hilarious antics, including a very melodramatic death scene. The cast are also genuinely good from Peter Greene and Peter Reigert to a young and very gorgeous Cameron Diaz as Stanley’s object of affection and reason for maintaining the mask persona.

“The Mask” is not exactly the adaptation the comic’s fan base wanted, but as its own entity, it’s a decent comedy diversion with a creative mythology, and neat special effects that still hold up.