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Jim Carrey's facial contortions highlight Ace Ventura

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Directed by Tom Shadyac.

Written by Jack Bernstein, Tom Shadyac, and Jim Carrey.

Starring Jim Carrey, Sean Young, and Courtney Cox.

Loews Copley Place.

By J. Michael Andresen
Arts Editor

Admittedly, this movie sounds stupid at the outset. A pet detective looking for a kidnapped dolphin? Surely you jest! But Jim Carrey is nothing if not a jester, and he shines in this, his first starring role. Wonderfully exaggerated facial gestures, along with perfect comedic timing, combine to make perfect his characterization of a non-standard investigator.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is very much a vehicle for Jim Carrey and his brand of humor. Though he has had supporting roles in a few movies previously, he is best known for the outrageous characters he has created on In Living Color, the Emmy Award-winning television series. His hallmark is facial contortions; he has the uncanny ability to twist his face into veritable personifications of the emotions he enacts from pain to elation, scorn to enthusiasm. In context, these are hilarious. No matter what happens in the rest of the screen, Carrey's expression is always amusing.

His vocal caricatures are almost as hilarious. From his trademark laugh to his impression of a lunatic wide receiver, he cannot fail to please. MIT fans will especially enjoy a trio of Star Trek impressions.

Jim Carrey is Ace Ventura, the noted Miami pet detective. When Snowflake, the mascot of the Miami Dolphins football team, is kidnapped, Ace is called to the job. In a cascade of foolhardy blunders and semi-decent detective work, Ace attempts to track down the missing aquatic creature. Only after Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino (as himself) is kidnapped as well does Ace put two and two together to get five and solve the case.

Surprisingly, the script is rather well written. The plot of the detective story is coherent and interesting. The bad guy is sufficiently deviant and well motivated, and the action progresses logically. True, Ace Ventura is of the same genre as Airplane, Naked Gun, and Police Academy, but its plot is nonetheless sound.

Some of the jokes are a bit crass, perhaps. There were a few too many penis jokes for my taste. The overuse of the word "dick" for "private detective" was the least tiresome. On the whole, however, the comedic material is fresh. "You really love animals," observes Dolphins' marketing director Melissa (Courtney Cox). Ace ponders this for a moment before agreeing, "If it gets cold enough."

Despite several movie roles. Cox too is probably best known for her last television role, that of Lauren, Michael J. Fox's girlfriend on Family Ties. This role will not change that, as she is not particularly memorable; the writing gives all lines with any humorous content to Carrey, and her delivery of her own lines is uninspired.

Marino is an acting flop as well. It is truly pitiful that the man cannot even portray himself believably. Though perhaps a cute gimmick, Marino really brings down the ending of the film. Carrey could easily have carried the film himself without relying on a celebrity role of such significant importance as Marino's.

One interesting production aspect was the use of animals. Aside from the dolphin, more than 25 animals grace the screen, most of which appear in two scenes in Ace's apartment. The first is silly, as all the animals come out from their hiding places to greet Ace when he comes home. The second is much better and involves nearly the entire animal cast (including a skunk, a couple of penguins, and a monkey) watching in awe during the goofy sex scene.

The music is also well chosen. Drawing from various other film scores, it always fits the mood on the screen at the time, often in an amusing or ironic way. Listen for the theme from The Crying Game in an oddly appropriate spot. The use of the tune alone draws several well-deserved laughs.

Though indisputably stupid, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is also genuinely funny, and Carrey excels in the lead role. If there were such a category, he would win hands down an Academy Award for best facial contortions. In fact, he'd probably be the only nominee.