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'Mask': All Tricks, No Treat

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2005; Page WE44

Jamie Kennedy is, by many accounts, a funny guy. You wouldn't know it, though, from "Son of the Mask," the anemic sequel to the 1994 Jim Carrey vehicle, "The Mask," in which Kennedy is forced to play second fiddle to a computer-animated dog and a baby who urinates like Old Faithful.

Following the premise established in the first film, Kennedy's aspiring cartoonist Tim Avery stumbles upon a magical mask belonging to the Norse god Loki (Alan Cumming), which transforms the wearer into a wisecracking shape-shifting green superhero -- whereupon he promptly loses it. But not before impregnating his wife, Tonya (Traylor Howard), who nine months later gives birth to a (literally) bouncing baby boy (Ryan Falconer) permanently endowed with Loki's ability to morph into . . . well, anything he pleases. Jealous of the new arrival, Tim's dog finds the mask, transforming itself into a chartreuse ball of destructive canine id just as Tonya leaves town (and her hapless hubby) for a business trip.

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The "Mr. Mom" setup is weak enough as it is, but Kennedy is tragically miscast as the inept, straight-man dad, struggling to master diapers while crashing a deadline to complete rough sketches for a new cartoon show he's working on and trying to appease Loki, who wants his mask back. Hamstrung by material that calls for Kennedy to muster little besides a look of slack-jawed stupefaction, and, at his most emotional, given to emitting vocalisms that sound like air escaping from a balloon, our leading man is soon overwhelmed by a film top-heavy with joyless Tex Avery-style special effects and a dancing-baby bit embarrassingly reminiscent of TV's "Ally McBeal." Even Cumming's slyly subversive Scottish humor is lost under a pile of costume changes and a flat American accent.

Throughout the whole thing, Tim's boss (Steven Wright) keeps riding Tim, telling him that his idea for the new TV show lacks "spark." Guess what people? So does this.

SON OF THE MASK (PG, 86 minutes) --Contains cartoonish violence, a glimpse of a plumber's crack, miscellaneous bodily-fluid humor, vague sexual innuendo and one mild vulgarity. Area theaters.


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