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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chuck Russell
Cast:
Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Richard Jeni
Writing Credits:
Michael Fallon, Mark Verheiden, Mike Werb

Tagline:
From zero to hero.

Synopsis:
Jim Carrey stars as mild-mannered bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss, who discovers a mysterious ancient mask that brings his inner most desires to wild, screaming life! Now, together with his sidekick Milo, this wise-cracking green tornado is taking Edge City over the top in this romantic-action-comedy that will leave you s-s-s-smokin'!

Box Office:
Budget $18 million.
Domestic Gross
$119.938 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 3/25/1997

Bonus:
• Audio commentary by Chuck Russell
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
• Cast & Crew biographies and filmographies


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Mask: Platinum Series (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 1, 2003)

(Editor's Note: The Mask was also a part of a "Dumb and Dumber" review Colin wrote years ago comparing The Mask with Billy Madison DVDs. Colin decided to rewrite the review as a stand-alone. FYI.)

I have to admit that during his early days, I really didn’t care for Jim Carrey. Before he became a movie star, I only knew him through his annoying TV work on In Living Color. When Ace Ventura, Pet Detective came out in early 1994, it did nothing to change my mind; it seemed like just more over the top stupidity from old Rubberface. (For the record, I know that Ace wasn't Carrey's first movie, or even his first starring role, but it was the first film in which he featured prominently since he attained some measure of stardom through In Living Color. So there!)

When The Mask came out a few months after Ace, I held similarly low expectations for it. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask seemed like virtually the perfect role to match Carrey's talents. One one hand, he got to display his "over the top" tendencies in a wonderful manner through a literal cartoon character; The Mask was supposed to be larger than life, so the higher the degree of mugging and hamminess, the better.

But Carrey also got to show that he could play a real character through his portrayal of average-guy/semi-loser Ipkiss. It's become somewhat fashionable over the years for people to claim that they enjoyed Carrey's work as Ipkiss more than as The Mask, but I won't say that; The Mask's antics are what give the film spark and excitement. However, his performance as Ipkiss grounds the flick and offers a character about whom we can care; Carrey creates a somewhat cartoony but surprisingly real and human character in Ipkiss, and that achievement really makes The Mask a movie that's more than just a series of absurd comic sequences.

The Mask offered the first role through which Carrey showed he could play characters who weren't absurd imbeciles. It also gave us our first glimpse of hot star Cameron Diaz, and I'd argue it's still one of our best glimpses of her. Okay, partly this is because I don't think she's ever looked hotter than in The Mask; she's not really my type, but she scorches here.

However, although The Mask was her first movie, Diaz gave a nicely understated performance as the stereotypical blonde bombshell. She had even less to work with here than Carrey does as Ipkiss, but she took her opportunities to make Tina believable and sympathetic. Good work also comes from veteran actor Peter Riegert, who plays police Lieutenant Kellaway with appropriately comic levels of cynicism and gruffness, and Jim Doughan's Doyle, who provides a hilariously innocent counterpoint to Kellaway's harshness.

Special attention also has to be made of Milo the dog. Okay, I'm a serious dog lover who has been known to cry, "Go Poochy! You can do it, Poochy!" when movie canines are endangered, ala Vivica Fox's dog in Independence Day. Still, Milo clearly stands out among performing pups. He works very well as an integral part of the plot, and he offers quite a few solid comedic moments. Apparently Carrey improvised neatly with many of Milo's miscues; it would have been great if they'd included some of those outtakes here.

I have less positive feelings about Peter Greene's work as heavy Dorian. Greene's a capable actor, as shown through his work in films like Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects. However, no one seems to have told him that The Mask was supposed to be a comic book comedy. Greene plays Dorian with a seriousness and malice that simply seem out of place in a film such as this. In a way, it's somewhat refreshing to see that kind of acting; theoretically, the harshness of Dorian should add a realistic flavor to this fantasy. However, that doesn't happen here. In the end, Dorian simply seems like a character from another movie and Greene's scenes make for jarring transitions from the rest of the film.

I also found Richard Jeni's work as Ipkiss's smooth hipster buddy Charlie to be lacking. Like Greene's turn as Dorian, I felt like Jeni's Charlie seemed to be part of a different movie, though for less tangible reasons. I guess it never made sense to me that a modest schlub like Stanley would be friends with a butt-kissing poseur like Charlie, and Jeni's portrayal offers no clues about this attraction. He creates an absolutely charmless character whose presence grates on the viewer at virtually all times.

Much attention was paid to the groundbreaking special effects in The Mask upon its release in 1994; the computer work seemed to effectively create characters who became cartoons. However, as time passes, these elements begin to look less and less acceptable. I used to feel they were very solid, so I was surprised to notice how bad they look based on 2002 standards. The CGI isn’t atrocious, but those parts seem relatively poor.

Thankfully, the charm of The Mask does not depend on the believability of its special effects. That aspect remains solidly grounded in the charm of most of the performers and the wit with which the plot is executed. Eight years after its release, The Mask remains arguably Carrey's most effective performance and film.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

The Mask appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That factor surprised me; New Line enjoys such a stellar reputation that I thought they didn’t offer any non-anamorphic presentations. Unfortunately, not only did The Mask lack 16X9 enhancement, but it also offered a fairly weak image that showed many more problems than I expected.

Sharpness varied but usually appeared adequate. Much of the film looked reasonably crisp and well defined, but a number of shots came across as soft and fuzzy. These weren’t extreme, but they appeared noticeable. Possibly due to the lack of anamorphic enhancement, jagged edges created quite a few concerns, and I also noticed occasional examples of moiré effects. One of the worst aspects of the transfer stemmed from the copious use of edge enhancement. I saw haloes around many objects, and this element made the picture look less clear than it should. In addition, occasional print flaws like speckles and light grain appeared. However, those defects never seemed major.

Colors looked erratic. At times, the movie boasted nicely vivid and vibrant tones, but the hues also could come across as heavy and somewhat runny. Skin tones sometimes looked a bit pink as well, but the colors usually were reasonably good. Black levels seemed fairly solid as well, though they occasionally appeared somewhat inky. Shadow detail demonstrated acceptable clarity in low-light sequences, but the movie occasionally was a bit hazy. Overall, I found the picture of The Mask to provide a bland and disappointing experience. It showed a number of good moments, but as a whole, it seemed surprisingly weak.

On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Mask worked quite well. Though the mix usually favored the forward channels, it presented a nicely engaging and active track for the most part. In the front, stereo music sounded clear and lively, while the effects appeared well delineated and accurately placed across the spectrum. The surrounds mostly came to life during the Mask sequences, and for those scenes, we got a nice sense of the comic book tone.

Audio quality appeared fairly positive. Speech occasionally betrayed a little edginess, and some lines seemed a bit muted and flat. Nonetheless, the dialogue usually appeared acceptably natural and distinct, and I discerned no problems related to intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate. They showed good range and presented no signs of distortion. Music also featured positive dynamics and brightness. Bass appeared slightly boomy on a couple of occasions, but low-end usually worked well, especially in regard to the movie’s songs; “Cuban Pete” sounded very good. In the end, the soundtrack of The Mask presented a solid effort.

The Mask tosses in a smattering of supplements. Of most interest is the audio commentary from director Charles Russell, who offers a running, screen-specific affair. Russell brings a nice sense of energy and excitement to his monologue, and he provides a solid level of information about the film. For example, we learn that The Mask was originally conceived as the first in a new series of horror films. I liked this track very much, although I do wonder what happened to the planned sequel; the commentary was recorded no later than 1996, but I've never heard anything about it since then. Maybe Carrey's currently huge salary demands made it impractical.

Other than the audio commentary, The Mask provides two deleted scenes. One runs 105 seconds, while the other lasts two minutes. These are interesting to see but not missed in the final film. We also find the film’s theatrical trailer and a section for The Cast. In the latter, we get quick biographies for Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Richard Jeni, Peter Greene, and Peter Riegert. Surprisingly, the DVD omits a photo gallery that existed on the laserdisc.

In The Mask, we find one of the best uses of Jim Carrey’s talent. The film lets him show off his exuberant side while it also allows him to broaden his range, and the movie offers a generally amusing and winning experience. Unfortunately, the picture quality seems relatively weak; it suffers from a number of concerns that make it less than positive as a whole. Audio quality appears solid, however, and the DVD tosses in a few good extras. Because of the mediocre picture quality, I find it hard to recommend The Mask, but fans may still want to give it a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4848 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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