Not way back, within the Earlier than Occasions, speak of masks conjured one exact picture in my thoughts: a snot inexperienced face, bald as a ball of Play-Doh, contorted right into a roguish smile. And Jim Carrey was the person behind “The Masks,” that deranged comedy a couple of spineless financial institution clerk named Stanley Ipkiss who, upon donning an historic masks, finds his most wanton appetites unleashed.
The film was the very best grossing of Carrey’s three blockbusters in 1994 — the others had been “Dumb and Dumber” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” — and all three helped catapult Carrey to goofball stardom. The story additionally ushered in what would turn out to be Carrey’s signature half: the twin position of straight man and loony maniac. Like Dr. Jekyll, Ipkiss transforms right into a frenzied alter ego, a personality foible that might be equally replicated in “Me, Myself & Irene,” “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty.”
This binary kind befits a film that, in type and tone, takes cartoons as its mannequin. “The Masks,” directed by Chuck Russell, was based mostly on a Darkish Horse comedian, and its particular results (overseen by Industrial Mild and Magic) are all googly eyeballs and lolling tongues, steamrollered torsos and twirling blurs. The film pays overt homage to Looney Tunes: Footage of Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and the Tasmanian Satan adorn Ipkiss’s house and, in a single scene, he even performs a videotape of Tex Avery’s “Screwball Classics 2.”
A yr after sitting by the gritty nihilism of considered one of final yr’s blockbusters, “Joker,” I discovered rewatching “The Masks” to be refreshing. In his yellow zoot swimsuit, Ipkiss is much less a doom-and-gloom antihero than a baby of Avery’s animated golden age, and his world — a made-up metropolis the place the grooviest nightclub performs swing music — displays his 1940s aptitude. The film additionally supplied a debut position to Cameron Diaz, who, as a blonde bombshell love curiosity, is as closely ogled as Avery’s Pink Sizzling Driving Hood.
In considered one of my favourite scenes, Ipkiss theatrically feigns demise within the arms of a foe, solely to proper himself and settle for an Oscar for the efficiency. On the time, Carrey known as his character “Fred Astaire on acid.” Zinging between references sooner than I can preserve monitor, “The Masks” looks like cinema itself on acid.