'Ventura' is a vehicle for manic Carrey

February 04, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Welcome to the movies, Ace Ventura.

Or, perhaps more to the point, welcome to the movies, Jim Carrey.

And, one suspects, the movies will never be the same again. Carrey, heretofore mainly visible on Fox's "In Living Color," is one of those grotesque off-earth phenomena like Jerry Lewis or Robin Williams at full toot, probably irreducible to mere language.

He hears different rhythms, speaks a different language, has a different system of musculature, hair architecture and bone construction. He is either devolved or evolved, but he is not what the rest of us are, that I guarantee you. His teeth are bigger, his face as prehensile as an ape's thumb. His sense of humor could only be fit on a spectrum that includes stops for anarcho-syndicalism, Zoroastrianism and poop jokes. He is what Wahoo Serious was trying to be, and that is funny.

"Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" isn't much of a movie, but it has the sense enough to back off and forget its own meager plot `D whenever Carrey gets in his anything-can-happen mode. And, literally, anything can happen.

When he gets going he's just as likely to do an entire six-episode arc from "Star Trek," or seem to somehow turn his face inside out until he looks like an aardvark encountering a very dry martini for the first time. He is a walking non sequitur, and his loony comic craziness is the sole virtue of "Ace Ventura, Pet Detective."

Think of it as a platform rather than a story. Others in the genre are "Good Morning, Vietnam," or "Mrs. Doubtfire," and any Three Stooges film. The hallmarks of the oeuvre are instantly recognizable: The story contrivances are perfunctory, the other performances pale, the pacing uncertain, and in some cases the actual technique leaves you convinced the director wasn't sure where to put the camera. The general aesthetic style might be described as "extremely shaky tending toward panic."

As the "plot" has it, Ventura, a dopey specialist in locating missing animals, is hired by the Miami Dolphins in the weeks before the Super Bowl when that team's Dolphin mascot is kidnapped. The police, led by frosty Lt. Eichorn (frosty Sean Young) are unhelpful. Thus team-gal Friday and movie straight-man Courtney Cox gives Ace a call and spends the rest of the movie trying to look unimpressed with his sunbursts of insanity.

Ultimately, the film comes to revolve around a transsexual Scott Norwood type, who missed the big field goal wide right and has been driven cuckoo. Even stalwart Dan Marino shows up, appearing somewhat dazed by it all. Dan, don't quit that day job just yet.

"Ace Ventura, Pet Detective" is probably the "Citizen Kane" of pet detective movies and 30 seconds after walking out, you won't remember anyone except Carrey. But in its relentlessly stupid way, it's very funny.

"Ace Ventura,

Pet Detective"

Starring Jim Carrey and Courtney Cox

Directed by Tom Shadyac

Released by Warner Bros.

PG-13

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