The Mask at 25: Still SSSSSMOKIN' After All These Years

The Mask at 25: Still SSSSSMOKIN' After All These Years

With the 25th anniversary of 1994's "The Mask" being celebrated this month, Steve takes a look back at Jim Carrey and Cameon Diaz's breakout film and why it's legacy still resonates with people today!

The summer of 1994 was an interesting period for a handful of movies that were genuine surprises at the time but have gone on to become iconic masterpieces. Disney floored every that June with the original Lion King, a movie that wasn't viewed intially as a major project by the company themselves (the following year's Pocahontas was intended as more worthy of their focus, while the former movie was considerd a side-project). The ever-quotable Forrest Gump went to eventualy become that year's Best Picture-winner at the Oscars. Speed made an honest-to-God action star out of Keanu Reeves, which paid off down the line with The Matrix series, and more recently, the beloved John Wick saga. Even Alex Proyas' The Crow predated The Dark Knight by 14 years by having an iconic superhero movie that overcame the tragic loss of one of it's lead actors, in this case the late, great Brandon Lee. But in-between all these releases came one comedy that made not stars out of BOTH it's lead actors while giving audiences quite the memorable visuals and jokes the likes of which not seen outside of Disney's Aladdin 2 years ago. That movie would be none other than The Mask!

Believe it or not, few people even seem to know that The Mask is even based off a comic book property, let alone intended to be a superhero film!. Loosly adapted from Dark Horse Comics's dark and violent comic series (yeah, in the orignial comics, the Mask is portrayed as a murdurous supervillain; i've never read said comics, so I'll be focusing more on the movie for the sake of simplicity), the movie centers around Jim Carrey's role of Stanley Ipkiss, a likable but insecure bank clerk who falls for the lovely singer Tina Carlyle (played by Cameron Diaz in her acting debut). While the two have feelings for each other, Tina happens to be the girlfriend of local mobster and nightclub owner Dorian Tyrell, who, meanwhile, is plotting a robery of the bank Stanley works at while also seeking to overthrow his boss and take over his gang. Unable to get into Tyrell's club, a down-on-his-luck Stanley encouters a strange wooden mask floating in the nearby harbor. Upon putting on the item (later revealed to be a magic artifact belonging to the Norse god Loki), he's transformed into a zaney, cartoonisly-green alter-ego called "The Mask". In this guise, the once-meek Stanley is now a wacky, over-the-top jokester not dissimilar to the creations of Tex Avery or Chuck Jones, who proceeds to cause havock on Tyrell's gang while wooing the unsuspecting Tina. However, with the police thinking The Mask is a criiminal (Stanley ends up robbing his own bank to get into the afformentioned night club) and Tyrell eventually planning to take the mask for his own evil ends, Stanley's forced to choose between his newfound cartoonish powers and just being himself.

While the plot is standard for most 90s comic adaptations, the real strength of the movie is Jim Carrey's humor. It's almost a tale of two different performances. As Stanley, he's a meek, likeable guy who most of the world treats like crap, with Tina as well as Stanley's best friend Charlie being the the only people in his life who treat him like a decent guy. As The Mask, Carrey goes hog-wild with what has become his trademark over-the-top humor. He's litterally a human cartoon; he can pull objects and weapons he needs out of thin air, he can disguise himself at will, he can bounce around off off walls and ceilings like a spring, etc. While credit goes to Mike Werb's script for most of the writing, one wonders how much of the humor was in there from the start and how much Carrey ad-libbed his way through it. Like the late Robin Williams, Carrey is a master of wackey humor and being so off-the-cuff at points you'd think he was losing himself in the roles he plays. I
n probably the funniest scene of the movie, Carrey wears a mariachi outfit and leads the poice force confronting him in an impromptu performance of "Cuban Pete", eventually taking advantage of the enthralled cops to escape. The result is pure, random insanity.




The Mask is now streaming on HBO Now (as of the time of this article's publishing; availability subject to change) and is also available to own on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital. If you haven't seen it before, now is the time. I can't stress enough how funny this movie is that I don't even want to spoil the rest of it. Although stay away from the mostly-unrelated sequel. The less said about that atrocity the better.

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