Who else over 25 years old remembers this movie? Everyone? Why? Why are there still video essays (check out Nostalgia Critic’s discussion by the way) over 20 years later?
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good movie, I still watch it from time to time and laugh, but why does it have staying power? It didn’t push any boundaries of film making, have an emotional shock that scarred us for life, or even one scene that is consistently on top 10 lists. Most people would say it’s because of Jim Carey’s performance, but at this point I’d say it’s aged far better than any of his other films (yes, including The Truman Show).
The answer’s surprisingly simple: The Mask isn’t lazy. No one, not the director, not the actors, and ESPECIALLY not the writers phoned in their contributions. All of the character interactions and plot points of the film make sense and stand up to audience scrutiny. For example, Cameron Diaz’s character meets Jim Carey early in the movie not randomly, but to set up a bank robbery that is the trigger for the gangsters’ plot for the rest of the story.
Jim Carey’s troubles in his life as Stanley Ipkiss? Set up early on and pay off multiple times throughout the movie. The romance between him and Cameron Diaz? As previously mentioned, set up early on and develops throughout the running time. The reasons the lead gangster wants to kill him? Established from these two plot threads. Even most of the Mask’s early shenanigans connect to previous scenes in the movies where he was wronged as Ipkiss.
With a few small exceptions to do some over-the-top jokes, there’s no excess fat to this screenplay, every scene serves to either further the plot or the character’s motivations. That aside, the comedy still holds up pretty well today since the jokes don’t rely on tropes from the 90s nor do they go for shock value that’s offensive in 2017, but has enough exaggerated acting from Jim Carey to stand out. It’s a well done silly movie akin to the Looney Toons, but with a comprehensible plot and good acting (so no guilt).
As I said already though, this movie doesn’t really take any risks or do anything innovative for film making, and there aren’t strong emotional or comedic moments that pop in my head in the middle of the day and make me reflect on them, so I’m not giving this 5 stars. Rewatch this film if you haven’t in a while, and if you’ve never seen it give it a try, it’s just as funny now as it was over 20 years ago.
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★