Jim Carrey burst onto the Hollywood scene in a big way in 1994 with the likes of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb & Dumber and The Mask. The latter stood out for many thanks to its mischievous cartoon vibe and its impressive special effects.
Based on the Dark Horse comic books, The Mask saw Jim Carrey play mild-mannered banker Stanley Ipkiss, an overly nice, unlucky loser who gets stepped on by everyone around him and just kinda lets it happen. Until one day he finds some strange wooden mask which basically turns him into a superhero. Or, rather, a green-headed Tex Avery-infused freak who travels by tornado, spouts out catchphrases and wears bright and colourful suits. He becomes everything he's not and has a ball being The Mask until this seemingly unlimited power backfires and Ipkiss' life gets out of control. Before all this, he meets Cameron Diaz's femme fatale, a dancer at the "Coco Bongo Club" and the villain Dorian's (an intimidating Peter Greene) girlfriend. Ipkiss soon finds himself in the middle of a cold mob war as the police starts hunting him down. A sort-of love triangle eventually develops between Carrey, Diaz and Amy Yasbeck's character but it doesn't quite go the way you expect it to, which is refreshing, frankly. The Mask proved to be the perfect vehicle to showcase Carrey's manic, rubber-faced persona and was a blast for kids and adults alike. The fact that the childishness of the whole thing was retro in that it included references to old cartoons was certainly clever as people of all ages could basically enjoy the over-the-top madness at hand.
The special effects, which were impressive at the time, still stand up surprisingly well to this day and the film moves at such a non-stop pace that you're thrown random images here and there fast, with little time to really analyse each piece of CGI so that just works. Most of the humour is family friendly, people don't really die on-camera, at worst they get flushed down into the river or they pass out off-camera and you're just left to assume they're out. There are some more adult jokes in there: The Mask pulling out a condom instead of an airless balloon, for example, but they're very few and far between. It's predominantly juvenile (yet effective) jokes set in a moody comic-book setting (Edge City). Some classic moments include The Mask's unexpected musical rendition of "Cuban Pete", Ipkiss' faithful dog Milo finally putting on the mask, a crazy dance number where Diaz is forced to keep up with Carrey's hilarious moves and, of course, The Mask's very first appearance which, after a solid build-up, is hugely rewarding. The Mask is quite probably the only film that I can say I knew by heart, from start to finish, at some point in my life so it definitely had an impact on me growing up and I could see most kids watching it today having a blast with it. It really is a lot of fun and, even though several other films have tried to imitate its unique approach (the unholy Son Of The Mask being one of them) none has managed to pull it off quite as well as this movie did.
One of Carrey's must-see movies, The Mask is pure cartoonish madness from start to finish and it's every bit as entertaining and amusing as it sounds. A unique cult hit you won't forget in a hurry.