In our semi-regular feature of pretending to celebrate a movie’s anniversary, we take a look back at 1994’s The Mask; the wacky comedy starring Jim Carrey as a hapless loser who finds a mask that transforms him into his green-faced alter-ego.
This comic book adaptation is directed by Chuck Russell, who previously made A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, one of the franchise’s superior sequels. Here he’s back with New Line Cinema, dubbed “the house that Freddy built” thanks to the studio’s foundations laid by Wes Craven’s classic. Dream Warriors stands out from a slew of otherwise stupid sequels due to its creative surrealism and all-out weirdness; sensibilities that Russell brings to The Mask to great effect. It’s in the hyper-stylised Mask sequences that the film comes colourfully to life, with Oscar-nominated special effects that aren’t so much Looney Tunes as Certifiably Insane Tunes.
Underneath all the inventive visuals is Jim Carrey, a man so naturally stretchy that if he claimed there weren’t actually any special effects in the whole film, we’d probably believe him. This is one of his best roles, completely inhabiting the crazy cartoon with an infectiously deranged energy. All-singing, all-dancing and all teeth, the Mask looks like a green David Willetts but not as scary. He fires out impressions, quips and references on all cylinders, paying hideous homage to everyone and everything from Humphrey Bogart and Sally Field to Twin Peaks and Dirty Harry. Carrey is an inspired casting choice, a real-life whirling dervish with an impressive claim to fame; having also appeared in Batman Forever and Kick-Ass 2, there probably aren’t many other actors with so many comic book franchises under their spandex belts.
The film is far from perfect; indeed, to call The Mask a perfect film would be crazier than the green-skulled antihero. The movie suffers when we’re not in the hyperactive presence of the Mask, leaving us waiting for his next bit, which are too few and far between.
Crucially, though, Carrey pulls us along at an alarming pace, our eyes bulging comedically at his off-the-wall performance, props and costumes; not to mention those of a young Cameron Diaz, in her very first film. It’s enormous amounts of fun, even toying with a Jeckyll and Hyde dynamic, Freudian themes and a brilliant dog. 20 years on, its easy to see why The Mask is so fondly remembered; it’s anarchic, quotable and weird in a way that Hollywood has since neglected.