Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace Ventura - Pet DetectiveSynopsis: He’s the best there is! (Actually, he’s the only one there is.)

He’s the best there is. In fact, he’s the only one there is! He’s Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Jim Carrey (The Mask. Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar) is on the case to find the Miami Dolphins’ missing mascot and quarterback Dan Marino. He goes eyeball to eyeball with a man-eating shark, stakes out the Miami Dolphins and woos and wows the ladies. Whether he’s undercover, under fire or underwater, he always gets his man…or beast!

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Ace Ventura: Pet Detective 8.5

eyelights: Jim Carrey’s zany, manic performance. the quirky script.
eyesores: Sean Young’s dreadful performance.

“Pet detection is a highly involved, scientific process.”

1994’s ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ is the picture that jump-started Jim Carrey’s career (which was soon cemented by ‘The Mask’). A massive hit upon release, it surprised everyone (no less critics), coming out of nowhere to not only take the top spot at the box office, but making a star out of the otherwise little-known Canuck comic.

For me, although I was floored by Carrey’s talent, ‘Ace Ventura’ represented more; it was a revelation. It was with this picture that I discovered the truly infectious nature of comedy. I went to see it at the cinema after reading a local review from a critic I respected, but had no idea it would be so devastating: the room was electric.

The laughter was infectious.

My friends and I laughed so damned hard that evening, I will never forget it. I’ve seen many comedies in cinemas before, but none that had that reaction; it was as though, for 85 minutes, a room full of people had collectively lost its mind, with people pretty much falling into the aisles. Each laugh built on the last, becoming irresistible.

That’s when I understood that humour is often funnier in groups; that, even if something is hilarious, we tend to laugh far less on our own than we do when surrounded by laughter. Laughter produces more laughter, and some types of laughter are utterly contagious (as evidenced in the documentary ‘Laughology’).

‘Ace Ventura’ warms up the crowd in the most playful manner: it introduces us to an HDS man trashing a fragile package on purpose on his way to his delivery and getting much satisfaction out of it, having fun with it. Featuring a hilariously silly performance from Carrey, and an abundance of physical comedy, it elicits a WTF reaction.

Then it ramps it up with an equally manic chase, as he tries to escape the recipient of his obliterated package. From that point on, the picture barely slows down, with Carrey infusing his titular hero with all sorts of astute impersonations, bizarre expressions, pop culture references, elaborate physical humour, and outrageous eccentricities.

The many levels of humour and the amount of skill with which Carrey delivered them is jaw-dropping.

But beyond his brilliant and unforgettable comedy chops, Carrey created a relatively multi-layered comic hero with shades of characters from his stand-up routines. He also contributed to the script, injecting it with his own flair. To think that, reportedly, Rick Moranis had turned down the role; ‘Ace Ventura’ would have been a very different beast.

The story introduces us to Ace, an animal lover who gets paid to track down and/or rescue animals. He’s hired by the management of the Miami Dolphins, whose dolphin mascot, Snowflake, has been kidnapped right before their Super Bowl game. With little time to spare, and pressure from the local police, Ace has to track down the culprit.

Although the picture is really just a showcase of Carrey’s astonishing abilities in the context of various comedic set pieces, it also manages to tie together a credible amount of plot elements, clues and character development – something that many comedies simply can’t be bothered with. With these characters in place, this story feels sufficiently real.

And that’s the biggest advantage that ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ has, because it’s not just a series of gags – even though they fly by fast and furious, these gags have a good foundation. The writing is also quite sharp and much of the cast play their parts with skill (aside for Sean Young, who SUCKS so hard that it hurts me to even write her name).

Here are some of the other many standout elements of ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’:

  • At the beginning, when Ace returns the dog, he is compensated for his work with a whirlwind BJ. It’s not so much that he gets one, it’s the way the gag is delivered: from the waist up, with Ace hanging on to the ceiling for dear life, whipping about as though her were caught in a blender. Unforgettable! And it stirs the imagination some.
  • I love that, after getting his windshield smashed in the opening sequence, he drives with his head out of the window. He doesn’t fix his windshield, or pop it out – he takes the lazy way out even if it’s probably harder to drive that way. That in and of itself is funny, but the sight of him adds an extra something to his driving sequences.
  • His interaction with his landlord, from avoiding him by hiding behind large fern leaves to greeting him as “Satan” (but pretending he thought he was someone else); there’s a tension and release there that’s really satisfying.
  • The sight of Ace with his pets perched on top of his outstretched arms and around him, after the landlord leaves, brings with it a mix of wonderment, cutesiness and absurdity. The camera angle on that last shot also helped.
  • Ace’s toothy, goofy grin: he’s like a car salesman hopped up on speed, all artificial and eager, over-performing beyond reason. Combined with his googly eyes, he looks absolutely mad, yet unthreatening. And quite hilarious to look at.
  • He’s a walking cartoon character, and it’s not just that he’s hard not to like, it’s an amazing performance to watch, with every look and gesture calculated for ultimate effect. Whether you like this character or not, Carrey’s skill is indisputable.
  • While inspecting the tank that Snowflake was taken from, Ace goes into this routine of spoofing Star Trek characters, starting with James T. Kirk, Scotty and Bones. Again, it’s not just a question of context, which is already funny, it’s that his caricatures are so accurate it’s amazeballs to watch!!!
  • Sometimes the picture goes for crude humour and one scene has Ace trying to humiliate a police detective into giving him leads by mock-talking through his butt. It’s such an absurd sight that you can’t help but laugh, plus which you can’t help but feel the poor recipient’s pain and laugh some more.
  • At one point, Ace goes to a club to meet a contact, and Cannibal Corpse is playing. Now this is extreme death metal and the crowd is moshing and head-banging to it. But what does Ace do? He mock ballroom dances to it. Brilliant! It’s so inspired that I feel the urge to do the same sometimes.
  • Following another lead, Ace goes to a millionaire’s soirée but acts totally inappropriately, in an outrageously juvenile fashion. Then he sneaks out to the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme, making so much out of moving just a few simple meters. And for no one but himself. It’s so ridiculous, so absurd.
  • The murder scene at the penthouse, when Ace stares down the room full of police officers and shows them his pipes to prove that they were completely off track. Behaviour like that is just not normal, and at first we have no idea what he’s doing. So we laugh. But when we finally understand, his mad genius impresses us.
  • There’s a montage of Ace trying to see past championship rings to see if they’re missing a gemstone. It’s hilarious because he does it in roundabout ways like trying to catch up to a running athlete, giving the finger to guy in a sports car, slapping a guy in the shower and counting the ring mark on his forehead, …etc.
  • At one point, he pretends to be insane so that he can visit a psychiatric hospital that could lead to more clues. He looks quite the sight, there’s this amazing moment when he does a slow motion performance and then redoes it in reverse. TOO much! It’s so amazing -and mindboggling- to watch!
  • The ‘Crying Game’ reference was very funny because it finds Ace trying to sanitize his mouth and doing it in the most outrageous fashion, including using a plunger. Forget the sexual politics around it, and just enjoy the ridiculousness of his behaviour – it’s worth it.
  • And there’s the Ace Ventura theme, which is reminiscent of such iconic numbers  as the ‘Peter Gunn’ theme, all bass-driven and edgy. Nice.

Where the picture trips up is in the finale, which feels unusually cheap, low budget: it’s cramped in a crappy boathouse, which adds a certain amount of claustrophobia but is also hampered by a really bad body double for Sean Young when she’s supposed to kick a football and fight. For some reason that ending really lets the air out for me.

Still, it doesn’t deter from my enjoyment of ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’. I laughed so hard, even though I was watching it alone and have seen this movie so often in the past that I knew every gag well before it was delivered. Somehow, this picture mined comedy gold in ways that really gets me. Each time. And, even when the jokes get tired, Carrey’s performance never gets old.

Nota bene: The Blu-ray thankfully features the Theatrical version, which hasn’t been available on home video before; it doesn’t incorporate the dolphin trainer sequence, which was subpar and broke the tone of that scene. Unfortunately, this scene is also not included in a deleted scenes section, for the fans, or through seamless branching. But I’m really glad to have the original back. Finally.

Date of viewing: May 18, 2015

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