This 1994 comedy film by Tom Shadyac helped to launch the film career of Canadian Jim Carrey. A completely ridiculous and childish 86 minute romp, for us as kids it marked the first breakout star for our generation.
Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) is a pet detective in Miama. He’s extremely eccentric, something of an animal activist, and sports the world’s best quiff.
Although renting a lowly apartment, he’s able to cram it full of animals and keep this hidden from his belligerent landlord.
Meanwhile he’s mocked by the local police department, who consider him a joke. There he has a highly acrimonious relationship with lieutenant Lois Einhorn (Sean Young), which he fans the flames of at any opportunity he gets.
Ventura also holds down a delivery job whilst hoping his detective business takes off.
He gets his big break when a local American football team loses its mascot – Snowflake the dolphin – and Ventura is tasked with finding the beast.
This leads him into the path of Melissa Robinson (Courtney Cox), a marketing and PR executive who’s miraculously able to tolerate Ventura’s relentlessly bizarre behaviour.
Following his various leads, leading them to billionaire Ronald Camp (Udo Kier) and one of his lavish parties.
Anyone familiar with Friends will note Cox is acting in a way Monica Gellar does from season one of the hit sitcom.
She’s not given a tremendous amount to do in the film, largely standing around looking beautiful – playing the straightwoman to Ventura’s inane antics.
That was also very much the case for Lauren Holly in Dumb and Dumber, Carrey’s other smash hit from 1994.
Filming for Ace Ventura wrapped in 1993 and Friends didn’t air until September 1994, so this was a pre-fame Cox. At that point she had some recognition for starring as Michael J. Fox’s girlfriend in Family Ties (plus dancing with Bruce Springsteen in one of his music videos).
The good news for her was she got to show her comedic chops once Friends took off.
But anyway, as with the above clip that’s what Ace Ventura is really all about. Moving from one scene to the next whilst Carrey engages in unorthadox activities.
The Snowflake the dolphin plot is used as a flimsy plot device to funnel his manic antics in and out of scenes.
For such a goofball comedy, the film’s plot then gets a bit convoluted as the detective element ramps up. Almost to the extent the film takes itself seriously.
Ventura discovers failed American footballer Ray Finkle may hold a grudge against his former team. Finkle’s mental breakdown landed him in a mental institute.
In classic 1990s, non-PC fashion Carrey then pretends to be insane to infiltrate the mental hospital.
This all then leads to a plot development where lieutenant Lois Einhorn (Sean Young’s character) turns out to be Ray Finkle and has just had a sex change.
Now she had previously made an advance on Ventura, which triggers off a homophobic (and pretty out of character) fit for him and he has a weird emotional breakdown in his shower.
Revisiting Ace Ventura, we were struck by just how immature elements are.
That’s to be expected to some extent as a daft romp along. And it does have a few solid laughs, but it started annoying us pretty quickly. It’s very much a film of its time.
We’ll get to its 1995 sequel next week – Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls – but with Dumb and Dumber you can see how to masterfully land a ridiculous screwball comedy that can stand the test of time.
As kids watching the film in 1994 – aged nine – the whole thing seemed pretty hilarious. It’s not aged overly well, of course, and now is just a bit silly and ridiculous.
An odd coda in Jim Carrey’s career, as within a few years he was delivering nuanced performances in the likes of The Truman Show.
Despite a mediocre critical response, the film was a big hit and paved the way for the comedian to dominate cinema in the 1990s.
CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, James G. Robinson, wanted a film with mass wide appeal. And the erstwhile actor Rick Moranis was approached – he declined, he’s been raising his family in private since the death of his wife in 1997.
Alan Rickman and Judd Nelson were up for it, along with Whoopi Goldberg. But after seeing one of Jim Carrey’s skits, they decided to give him a shot.
On a budget of $15 million, it went on to make some $107.2 million. A big hit that helped to launch Jim Carrey towards superstardom.
If we read it correctly, Carrey “only” took $200,000 for the role.
It was a massive breakout year for him. Having made his name as a stand-up and during performances in Saturday Night Live, in 1994 he went supernova.
Along with Ace Ventura, he enjoyed The Mask and Dumb and Dumber. Before the decade was out he was arguably the biggest name in Hollywood.
That lot made him a cult figure amongst adolescent boys, who loved his rubber-faced and wacky antics.
Very few actors command such a presence people will flock to see a film simply as they’re in it. But that was the power of the Jim Carrey brand circa 1995.
These days he’s still acting, has taken up art, and has been more open about his struggles with depression.
Having grown a big beard he’s also taken up social commentary and has mocked Donald Trump quite mercilessly.
Charlotte breaks down the Mueller Report. It’s time to stop following this pig through the mud. pic.twitter.com/LyOo9b0UTg
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) August 19, 2019
So that’s good, eh? Although don’t expect him to reprise his Ace Ventura rrole anytime soon. And that’s probably for the best.