The Mask, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty

Jim Carrey’s three best (and most Jim-Carrey-esque) movies.

In all three he plays an overgrown man-child who needs to grow up a little and requires a supernatural force to do so.

The makeup in The Mask is extraordinary, as are the special effects, especially when contrasted with those of Batman, made only five years earlier. Carrey’s green mask-head look, with enormous teeth and outsized features works with his face much better than Jack Nicholson’s Joker makeup, which, although shocking and disturbing, restricts the movement of one of the most expressive faces in film history. When Carrey moves in his makeup, it seems like nothing more than a slight exaggeration of what Carrey is already capable of. And the way that the live-action elements blend into the CGI looks completely believable. Of course, the subject matter is cartoons, so the CGI doesn’t have to look realistic, but the transitional moments are seamless and delightful.

The script, shall we say, favors the moment over long-term coherance, but whatever puts Carrey into the next situation is what we want to see.

Cameron Diaz is extraordinary in the picture, and, except for the dog, is really the only one who’s able to keep up with Carrey. It’s a shame they haven’t done anything else together.

Liar Liar is the most purely heartfelt of the three, and the best acted. Everyone from Amanda Donohoe to Swoosie Kurtz to Maura Tierney (who I desperately adore) to Jennifer Tilly are all on the same page. It’s not exactly “the world as we know it” in terms of logical cause and effect, but it’s a comedy and we’ll buy it, again, because we want to see Carrey placed into the next situation.

Astonishingly, it’s only 82 minutes long, including the out-takes under the credits. I remember something about the action-climax ending being a very late addition to the movie, and it’s definitely the moment least likely to happen in real life, and I’d be curious to know what the original ending was.

Bruce Almighty brings to mind Groundhog Day, which is, of course, one of the greatest screenplays ever shot. Both Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Carrey in Bruce Almighty self-involved jerks who hate their surroundings and are given a blessing/curse they must deal with and in the process grow souls. Both Murray and Carrey even play TV soft-news guys. Of the two scripts, Groundhog Day works better for me because the curse is unique, the story development completely unpredictable (despite predictability being, essentially, the nature of the curse). In contrast, the script for Bruce Almighty, while very funny scene by scene, seems to take on too much (kind of like its protagonist) and feels like it short-changes its potential. Both movies are about spirituality, but the spirituality in Groundhog Day is presented organically, is heartfelt and deeply moving, whereas the spirituality in Bruce Almighty feels scattershot and forced in comparison.

Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell hold their own against Carrey, and he has a dog again in this picture, but it’s no Jack Russell terrier.
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