Certain ideas are excellent material for short features on programs like Saturday Night Live or In Living Color. Properly padded, it’s possible that a few of those premises could even make passable 1/2 hour television programs. However, stretching things beyond a certain point courts disappointment. Take Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, for example, where the comic momentum sputters long before the running time has elapsed.
In the case of movies of this type, the plot is superfluous, and most of the time it doesn’t make much sense anyway, but here are the basics. Ace Ventura, pet detective (Jim Carrey), is called onto the case when the Miami Dolphins’ mascot Snowflake is kidnapped two weeks before the team’s Superbowl meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. Working alongside Ventura is the woman who hires him and eventually becomes his love interest, Melissa Robinson (Courtney Cox). At first, the case seems to be one of simple dolphin-stealing, but when quarterback Dan Marino (played, in a role that stretches his acting ability beyond the breaking point, by Dan Marino) is snatched during the filming of an Isotoner commercial, it becomes clear that sinister forces are at work.
Jim Carrey, also known as “Fire Marshal Bill” from the TV series In Living Color, uses his rubber features and goofy personae to take control of Ace Ventura. From the start, it’s obvious that this is a vehicle for his comedy, and it mostly works — for about ten to fifteen minutes. After that, Carrey’s act gradually grows less humorous and more tiresome, and the laughter in the audience seems forced.
That’s not to say that the film is never funny, because it has its moments, including some inspired take-offs of the original Star Trek (in which Mr. Carrey does a hilarious send-up of William Shatner’s “dramatic pauses”), Mission Impossible, and, perhaps best of all, The Crying Game (complete with the Boy George version of the title track). However, between these moments of mirth, there’s a lot of dead screen time. After the initial amusement of watching Carrey’s face twist into numerous odd expressions has worn off, the best way to pass the time is keeping an eye on Courtney Cox as she tries vainly to hold a straight face in the midst of her co-star’s antics.
Like the other movies loosely grouped in this category (which include the Wayne’s World entries, and, to a lesser extent, the Naked Gun-type flicks), the humor is very much of the hit-or-miss variety. Unfortunately for Ace Ventura, too many of the jokes not only aren’t funny, but aren’t funny while thinking that they are.
There are undoubtedly a lot of fans of Fire Marshal Bill and Jim Carrey’s humor. For them, Ace Ventura delivers the expected gags (many of which are scatological in nature, and almost all of which have the potential to offend a “sensitive” viewer) and an elongated opportunity to see Carrey in action. For just about everyone else, this is likely to be far too much of something best taken in small doses.
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