As I attempted to pack for Spring Break last Friday I turned on the television for background noise. To my surprise, an Ace Ventura special movie event was playing, and naturally, I dropped whatever clothes I was holding to give it my undivided attention. Ace Ventura was a part of my childhood I rarely get the opportunity to revisit, and the trip down memory lane was worth putting packing off to the last second.
The premise of the movie is simple: Ace Ventura, a private investigator, is paid to look for missing animals and, in the process, finds himself in the most hilarious circumstances. Ace’s character, played by Jim Carrey, is a mix of kooky, fabulous and stark raving mad, which completely makes up for the film’s mediocre script and plot. In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, directed by University alumnus Tom Shadyac, Ace is hired by Miami Dolphins publicist Melissa Robinson (played by a young pre-Friends Courtney Cox) to find the team’s mascot dolphin, Snowflake, who has been kidnapped weeks before the big Superbowl game. As you watch Ace run through a sanatorium in a pink tutu, deal with his landlord – “Yes Satan?” – and cruise the streets in his jalopy of a car, you end up laughing in spite of yourself.
The romance which blooms between Cox and Carrey is also engaging, especially in hindsight, since both actors enjoyed substantial success on the screen after this film: Cox with the smash hit show Friends, and Carrey with blockbusters such as Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty.
The 1995 sequel, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, won Carrey two MTV awards. In the film, Ace travels to Africa to find the great white bat, Shikaka, which was snatched days before the crucial marriage of an African prince and princess each from rival tribes.
Ace pairs up with chub by Fulton Greenwell (Ian McNeice) and again hilarity ensues. Ace ends up saving the day, but not without learning some African phrases, “Bumblebee tuna!”; dancing with African tribes, “Come on girls show ‘em what you got!”; escaping out of a rhinoceros’ bottom; and employing some stellar parking skills.
My personal favorite of the two movies, When Nature Calls allows Carrey’s energy and comedic genius to really shine. This is not to say Pet Detective isn’t entertaining, but When Nature Calls adds an international twist, giving the film both an edge and a broader level of appeal.
These two movies epitomize the kookiness which defined ’90s-era comedic classics like The Mask and Liar Liar, both of which also starred Carrey in their leading roles. Nostalgia and pity well up inside of me when I think about how much our notion of comedy has changed with recent releases such as Knocked Up and Bridesmaids. This new genre continues to test the boundaries of overdone sexual and toilet humor, which scrape the bottom of the barrel of slapstick comedy. Granted, if it weren’t for Carrey’s excellent interpretation of Ace’s character, the Ventura films could also have gone horribly wrong, and I doubt the second one would have been made at all. Still, although some may disagree, the genius of the Ace Ventura movies will always be my idea of cinematic gold.