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‘The Mask’ (PG-13)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 29, 1994

Suddenly, Jim Carrey's a full-fledged movie star, thanks to last year's surprise (make that shock) smash "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," which came from waaaay out of left field to make $72 million (and counting).

With more of his crazed, contortionist comedy, Carrey singlehandedly powers the flimsy follow-up flick "The Mask," which amounts to about 30 minutes of Silly Putty face-making and some truly special effects scattered throughout a truly mediocre two-hour movie.

But those spectacular, surprising 30 minutes are more fun than a summerful of "Speeds" and "Flintstones."

Not much can be said for the rest of "The Mask," which is a lazy Jekyll-and-Hyde rewrite, a ramshackle framework for the (literally) eye-popping FX. Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a not-too-interesting nice guy who works at a bank, and goes home each night to his dog Milo (Max, a Jack Russell terrier, who almost steals scenes from Carrey), and watches his beloved Tex Avery cartoons. In pajamas, of course.

There's a bit of excitement one morning, when a blond bombshell (Cameron Diaz) comes on strong at the bank, but she's just setting Carrey up as a patsy -- her bad guy boyfriend is planning a heist. Later, despondent doormat Carrey discovers an old wooden mask floating in the river, tries it on and turns into an acid-green tornado.

An instant superhero, The Mask is a prankish caricature of Carrey's id, what he wishes he could be. Rakishly zoot-suited in canary yellow, with a garish chartreuse complexion and a gargantuan set of choppers, he ricochets around rooms, swallows bombs and undergoes all sorts of mind-bending mutations.

In this good guise, Carrey gets the girl, gets revenge and even gets a city block of SWAT-team cops bumping helplessly in a conga line (perhaps a too-late parody of Steven Bochco's now-forgotten TV flop "Cop Rock"). Any other actor would be overwhelmed by this sort of mega-makeover. But even without the state-of-the-art, boundary-busting computerized effects from Industrial Light & Magic, Carrey's a human cartoon, and his spontaneous, Avery-esque, anything-for-a-laugh outrageousness makes this otherwise blank "Mask" a must-see.

THE MASK (PG-13) — Slapstick gunplay and cartoon violence.

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