Time for an overhaul!

Comic triumph has comic-book roots

Published: Jun 29 2015, 01:01:am

Friday, July 29, 1994.
THE MASK. Written by Mike Webb. Story by Michael Fallon and Mark Verheiden. Based on the 1989 comic book series The Mask, created by Mike Richardson, written by John Arcudi with art by Doug Mahnke. Music by Randy Edelman. Directed by Charles Russell. Running time:100 minutes. Mature entertainment with the B.C. Classifier's warning: occasional violence and very coarse language.
ALLLL RIGHTEE THEN! LET'S hear it for Jim.
    And, while we're at it, let's have a big hand for Tex and Chuck and Spaz. Together, they're the gang of four behind The Mask, the midsummer movie sensation that gives new meaning to the phrase "live-action cartoon."
    A simple story, it's a variation on the old Jekyll-Hyde plot. Call it "Dorkie Jimbo and Mr. Hi-de-ho."
      Actor Jim Carrey is the star, playing nerdy Stanley Ipkiss, the new accounts clerk at the Edge City Savings Bank. After a day of frustration, humiliation, insult and aggravation, the luckless animation buff returns home to take solace in his Screwball Classics videotape.
     We know that Ipkiss is a good guy because, earlier in the evening, he waded into the bay to save a drowning man.
    Oops! The bobbing body turned out to be a cluster of flotsam topped by a carved wooden mask. Soaked and feeling really stupid, Stanley carried the thing home with him.
    Oh-kay! Here's the good part. When the lonely guy finally fits the mask to his face, it transforms him into a jolly green demi-god from the golden age of cartoon comedy.
    "Hold on to your lug nuts," says the suddenly confident, wickedly funny super-duperman. "It's time for an overhaul!"
    Making his move on feature film stardom is the supercharged Jim Carrey. Coming hard on the heels of his surprise hit Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask propels the kid from Newmarket, Ontario, into the front ranks of Hollywood funnymen.
    Though an alumnus of neither Saturday Night Live nor SCTV, Carrey has parlayed a Canadian comic sensibility, his talent for mimicry and a genuinely alien presence into big screen success. In The Mask, he draws his inspiration from a wild and crazy guy named Tex.
    Frederick "Tex" Avery really was born in the Lone Star state. The most wonderfully lunatic cartoon director of all time, he was the mind behind Bugs Bunny and the creator of a hilariously anarchic world of wolves and cutesy, come-hither women.
    Acknowledging his debt to Avery is The Mask's director, Chicago-born Charles Russell. The animator's influence has been evident since Russell's debut feature, 1987's A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. In it, the director — then known as Chuck Russell — attempted to turn Freddy Krueger into a stand-up comic.
     In The Mask, he succeeds in making Carrey an Avery character, and the credit goes to Spaz.
    The film's second great Canadian connection, Steve "Spaz" Williams represents Industrial Light and Magic as the picture's visual-effects supervisor and animation director. A year ago, the Toronto-born computer-graphics wizard "played" T-Rex in the summer hit Jurassic Park.
    Today, he's Carrey's animated alter ego in those scenes where the actor metamorphoses into Wolfie, drops his jaw two feet or produces a cartoon arsenal from his pants pockets. If it's impossible, it's all in a day's work for the inventive Williams.
    It all starts with a Red Hot Riding Hood — here called Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) — walking into Stanley's bank, and his life. Nonstop fun for Bugs Bunny Festival fans, The Mask is, in a word favoured by the transformed Stanley, "Sssssmokin'! "

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1994. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Although comedian Jim Carrey had been around for more than a decade (with 10 previous feature film appearances on his resumé), The Mask is considered his breakthrough to stardom. It's also remembered as the feature debut of Cameron Diaz, whose star quality was recognized immediately. For Mike Richardson, who celebrates his 65th birthday today (June 29), it was his first hit as a motion-picture producer. The Oregon-based Dark Horse Comics publisher was quick to recognize the cross-over potential of comics to the movies. Six years after establishing Dark Horse, he took on the job of co-producing director Manny Coto's shock thriller Dr. Giggles (a film not based on a comic book) for his spin-off venture Dark Horse Entertainment. The Mask, which followed in 1994, was closer to his heart because the original comic was based on his own concept. Since then, Richardson has produced such comics adaptations as 1996's Barb Wire, Virus and Mystery Men (both 1999), three Hellboy features (2004, 2007, 2008) and a new Tarzan adventure scheduled for release in 2016.