Review: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Jim Carrey stars as the title Miami private investigator, ridiculed by the ‘real’ police officers, for his specialised area of detective work. When Snowflake, the beloved mascot of the Miami Dolphins gridiron team goes missing, company employee Courteney Cox brings in Ace to crack the case. Mostly he just clowns around and weirds everyone out. Tone Loc plays a friendly cop, Sean Young is the antagonistic Lt. Lois Einhorn, Udo Kier is a sinister rich guy, Noble Willingham and Troy Evans are respectively the owner of the Miami Dolphins and a Dolphins employee, whilst ball player Dan Marino appears as himself.

I’ve always preferred “The Mask”, but I remember enjoying this 1994 first ‘real’ Jim Carrey vehicle from debut director Tom Shadyac (“The Nutty Professor”, “Patch Adams”, “Liar Liar”) after a couple of 80s false starts, when I first saw it as a 14 year-old. Seeing it for the first time in about a decade or so as now 38 year-old…I had a surprisingly very different reaction. There’s a couple of amusing bits, and Carrey is quite clearly talented, but…I actually found it mostly incredibly annoying. Having very little plot despite three hands on the script (including Carrey himself) is pretty damning, too. A true starring vehicle, this is all about Carrey, his voice, his physicality, and his manic energy. Carrey’s like a combo of Jerry Lewis and ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic on speed. As such, it seems to hold more appeal to the younger set, as this grumpy old man got quite pissed off with it all after about 5 minutes. Maybe the late Roger Ebert was right about this one all along, as I didn’t have a good time at all this time around.

As I said, there’s not much in the way of plot or character, as it’s basically a low-rent “Fletch” with a more exhausting leading comedic force. Thus, Troy Evans, the late Noble Willingham, and the possibly nutty Sean Young (in probably her best performance to date) do good work…in a film where it’s not really important for anyone to give a genuinely good performance. Their efforts however, were certainly appreciated by me. Carrey’s efforts are also somewhat appreciated, it’s obvious he has talent and potential here, and some of his schtick is still amusing today. For the most part he seems to be trying too hard to wring laughs that aren’t often there to be had, which ends up causing quite a bit of irritation. This isn’t helped by the incredibly annoying and loud score by repeat offender Ira Newborn (remember the veteran comedy composer’s score for “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles”? Ugh). Even the gag that I laughed at the most the first time around (the film’s biggest twist, which involved a film reference I’m surprised 14 year-old me even recognised) failed to raise a smile from me this time. Partly because it’s transphobic and I’m not a small-minded teenager anymore, mostly because it’s not really a joke at all, though. Meanwhile, you know you’re watching a subpar film when Udo Kier is among the cast. Talented cult actor that he is, he’s nonetheless a frequent co-star of bad cinema. As for romantic leading lady Courteney Cox, she very clearly does not want to be in this film. It’s not acting, she’s not good enough at it to be acting. Ironic that she shares anti-chemistry with Carrey, given she eventually married David Arquette, who is hardly miles away in personality and temperament. The conclusion is startlingly stupid in its complexity when all it needed to be resolved quicker was a few words from Dan Marino. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what I mean. It says a lot that the best comedic scene here is literally a toilet joke.

Like “Dumb & Dumber”, a little of this goes a long way. Like “Liar, Liar”, all the best bits are in the trailer. Unlike the subsequent “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”, at least this film has a few best bits. I’ll give it that, otherwise this re-visit was a mostly irritating and disappointing one. 14 year-old me had an off day here I guess, the critics had it right on this one. Spotty and annoying, I’m scared to re-visit the “Wayne’s World” films now. The screenplay is by the director, Carrey, and Jack Bernstein (whose other credits are serving as a writer/producer of a lot of TV).

Rating: C


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