The Mask

Year: 1994
Director: Chuck Russell
Starring: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

This is right up there as one of my favourite childhood films. Imagine my delight as a toddler, seeing a man with a green face, a sharp suit and a knack for slapstick comedy on my TV screen. I had found my childhood idol. Luckily I grew up and found new idols (does Batman count as an idol?), but my fondness for Jim Carrey’s ‘The Mask’ remained in my not-so-unconscious inner child. I still remember how amused I was by all the antics and catchphrases this film offered – “P-A-R-T-Y…because I gotta” being a particular favourite – and all these childish little soundbites still had me chuckling 20 years later.

Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) is a loser, no question. He’s a cringeworthy, nerdy banker who can’t even look at a pretty girl without falling over his feet. So when the stunning Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) approaches his desk asking for savings advice, Stanley is helplessly besotted. Everything changes for Stanley though, when he finds a magical mask which transforms him into his dastardly, eccentric alter-ego – The Mask. As the most unorthodox of heroes, The Mask has to put a stop to the evil plans of the local mob, if he can keep his hands off Tina for long enough.

Back in the 1990s Jim Carrey was the undisputed king of comedy. Hits like ‘Liar, Liar’, ‘Dumb & Dumber’ and ‘Me, Myself & Irene’ will forever be remembered as comedy classics. Yet for me, no film showcases Carrey’s expertise in the fields of theatricality, entertainment and general silliness – the latter being a rather sought after qualification in the world of comedy – than ‘The Mask’. As the ultimate anti-hero, Carrey is absolutely out of control, verging on the insane, just how we like him. This film also gave the 1990s it’s go-to love interest in the form of Cameron Diaz. Long before the days of ‘Bad Teacher’, Diaz had two cards to play: seductive temptress or the good girl. Luckily, we get to see both here. But on the whole, it’s a relatively uninspiring performance from a woman used as little more than eye candy at this point in her career.

The titular character here has to be one of the greatest film characters of all time, at least in the comedy genre. At the heart of some of the greatest stories ever told, is the concept of a transformation or mutation – think ‘Dracula’, ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, and other classic Gothic tales – so there is a certain attraction and fascination to the story behind ‘The Mask’ which inevitably draws the audience in. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, much of the comedic elements are dropped in favour of a stronger narrative and the film loses steam as it heads to its climax, more intent on providing a resolution than a punchline.

Ultimately, it is this final third of the film which prevents it from being a perfect example of its genre. There is an abundance of entertainment value for children and adults alike however (I noticed a few jokes which would have been lost on me as a child) and I guess the fact the film delivers a happy ending isn’t the worst cinematic crime to commit. The silly, slapstick comedy had to end at some point, but I wish it didn’t. Believe me though, the first time you see Stanley Ipkiss transform into The Mask will make it all worthwhile.