The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Tuesday, August 2, 1994                TAG: 9408030607
TYPE: Movie Review
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   83 lines


THERE'S NO masking it, Jim Carrey is the movies' wildest physical comic in decades. Come to think of it, has there ever been anyone quite this insane?

Jerry Lewis, in his heyday, didn't have Carrey's gift for mimicry. Steve Martin is much more artistic, but he wasn't this much of a wild and crazy guy. Robin Williams is more than a match in the witticism category, but he's as much verbal as physical. That leaves this new guy.

``The Mask'' is a ``live'' cartoon that tries mightily, and with some success, to match the animated madness of Tex Avery and Chuck Jones cartoons.

The plot, with its Dark Horse comic book origins, is standard superhero stuff. A poor doormat named Stanley Ipkiss gets walked on by everyone - his fellow employees at the bank, his landlady, everyone. He gets no dates. Then he finds a fourth century mask. When he puts it on, he becomes a manic green man in a zoot suit with flashing teeth and dancing feet.

``Somebody STOP me,'' he screams as he befuddles pursuing police by persuading them to dance the rhumba rather than arrest him.

``I'm ssss-s-smoking!''

Simulated cartoons are perhaps better when they spin themselves out in the usual seven minutes, but ``The Mask'' is nonetheless a perfect vehicle for Carrey.

It isn't nearly as witty or as knowing as ``Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,'' which had a great deal more slyness to it than most credited it with.

On the other hand, ``The Mask,'' released by Ted Turner's new version of Fine Line Films, is a good deal more visual.

Industrial Light and Magic, an outfit usually employed for big-budget action flicks, has never been used to this extent in a comedy. Carrey's heart pops almost out of his chest when he sees the film's resident blonde, and his lovable dog turns into a warrior hound when the mask gets thrown its way.

It's all quite diverting but, to tell the truth, it's overkill to add special effects to a movie featuring Carrey. His rubber face and elastic physical contortions would have been enough in themselves. The effects become an overdose after 15 minutes or so, but there is the mystery of just how far they will go.

The film becomes quiet, almost dull, whenever Stanley, the nerd, is on screen. We might feel a little guilty about it, but we keep waiting for the green guy to come back. (Hey, didn't you have the same feeling as you waited for Superman or Batman to get back into suit?). Carrey does manage to suggest that he could play a gentler side. He'll probably win an Oscar in the year 2001 when he changes pace for a dramatic role.

He's best here when he does movie-inspired take-offs such as whining Sally Fields' line ``You like me; you really like me'' after people applaud his rhumba, or pulling out a ``Dirty Harry'' style gun. We could have done with more impersonations and less special effects.

Cameron Diaz plays the film's resident Jessica Rabbit, the blonde who sings and does deep-breathing exercises at the local Coco Bongo Club. She's a special effect herself.

It's a delightfully mischievous choice for Carrey to do ``Cuban Pete'' as his big musical number. It was a 1940s hit for Desi Arnaz.

And Lassie had best check out his credentials as movie dog of the summer. There's a Jack Russell terrier here who, as Milo the ever-trusty doggy, even steals a scene from Carrey.

``The Mask'' is likely to be the summer's biggest comedy hit. We immediately wonder when we'll get tired of Carrey. He has the kind of over-the-top persona that would seem to quickly wear out. The answer, though, is - not yet.

For the time being, he's the wildest clown on the block. ILLUSTRATION: Graphic


Cast: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert, Richard Jeni,

Peter Greene

Director: Charles Russell

Screenplay: Mike Werb

MPAA rating: PG-13 (some stylized violence)

Mal's rating: Three stars

Locations: Cinemark Movies 10, Chesapeake; Janaf, Main Gate

Movies 10, Norfolk; Kempsriver Crossing, Lynnhaven 8, Pembroke,

Surf-N-Sand, Virginia Beach

by CNB