Rita Kempley - Style section,
John F. Kelly - Style section,
'Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls'
Ace Ventura has decided to throw in the towel on the pet-detecting thing after a tragic accident in which a raccoon he's been sent to rescue from a mountain plane crash plummets to its death. He is lured out of contemplative retirement to search for the Shikaka, the sacred animal of Africa's Wachati tribe. It seems that if it's not returned, a tribal war will erupt with the violent Wachootoo. -- John F. Kelly
'Nature Calls,' Ace Answers
Every actor knows you should never work with animals, but no one seems to have told Jim Carrey that. The rubber-faced comedian has no problem stealing "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" from a cast that includes chimps, elephants, zebras, ostriches and a baboon-as well as British thespians who have appeared in Merchant/Ivory films.
Fans of "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" will be glad to hear that the sequel finds our hero little changed: He still sports a tsunami of hair and is able to stretch his trademark phrase-"Alrighty then"-into about 27 syllables.
Still, he's decided to throw in the towel on the whole pet-detecting thing after a tragic accident in which a raccoon he's been sent to rescue from a mountain plane crash plummets to its death. (Pierce Brosnan will have to work overtime in the upcoming "Goldeneye" to out-007 this edge-of-your-seat opening sequence.)
The human jester of the animal kingdom is lured out of contemplative retirement to search for the Shikaka, the sacred animal of Africa's Wachati tribe. It seems that if it's not returned, a tribal war will erupt with the violent Wachootoo. Unfortunately, this particular animal is the one beast on God's green earth that PETA-poster boy Ace can't stand. (I won't tell you what kind of animal it is, though if you saw a certain previous Carrey movie you should be able to solve the riddle.)
Written and directed by Steve Oedekerk, the latest "Ace" has a little more of everything than the first: more special effects, goofy props and "Airplane"-like sight gags. After the first few you begin to worry that perhaps Carrey will be overshadowed by the hardware. But he's a human special effect, quite capable of holding his own. And in fact, he's at his best when left to his own devices. A scene where he runs through the jungle, trying to elude capture while being pin-cushioned by anesthetizing blow darts-his body growing more numb with every step-is priceless.
Two opposable thumbs up for Jim Carrey.
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (PG-13) - Contains lots of gross stuff put to humorous effect.
'Ace' Ventura'd Too Far
By Rita Kempley
Butt ventriloquist, poopy jokemeister and loogie-lofter extraordinaire, Jim Carrey pulls every gag from his comedy kit bag-and some from his nose, of course-but "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" just rolls over and expires.
In his second outing, the antic animal sleuth is plucked from the simple environs of South Florida and plunked against a canvas far too grand-and far too exotic-for the character. Summoned to Africa by the British consulate, pet detective Ace must find a sacred white bat that has been stolen from the peaceful Wachati tribe. If he fails, the contentious Wachootoo tribe threatens tribal war. Never mind why.
Ace is as frenetic as ever, but his hyper high jinks aren't seen as particularly odd by the rascally Wachootoo or the wacky Wachati. As the Marx Brothers knew, anarchic comedy thrives best in a stuffy atmosphere like the opera, and even top bananas slip up without the proper foil. Carrey chooses foils that are actually comic competition: his adorable capuchin sidekick, Binks, and the British consul's nebbishy emissary (Ian McNeice, a roly-poly British character actor who could play Hitler sympathetically).
Carrey's targets-animal poachers, horse beaters and fur wearers-have potential, but he does little to milk it, preferring to mug the camera like a stupid comic thug. In short, Carrey's got nothing to bounce all that energy off of, not even a solid story line. A filmmaker with experience-or barring that, gumption-might have helped, but writer turned director Steve Oedekerk, an old pal of Carrey's, apparently had neither.
All Carrey has left to work with is the character, whose quirks and eccentricities and love for animals endeared him to slapstick audiences. A sequel ought to reveal something more about the character, but even Carrey seems to be growing tired of the poor pet detective. Perhaps the lesson is you don't have to answer when nature calls. Pretend you're in a crowded elevator.
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is rated PG-13 for off-color humor.