Originally Written on 7/01/2011
Ahhh, good old Ace. When this movie first hit theaters in 1994, I was a freshman in high school, 80% of the country didn’t have internet in their home and Jim Carrey was a budding Canadian sketch comedian. In his first starring film role, Carrey plays Ace Ventura, a borderline psychotic pet detective on the hunt for the missing mascot of the Miami Dolphins. The film, derided by most critics as being silly and sophomoric, gained a ravenous following, myself included. Once my dad brought home a used copy of the movie on VHS, however, is when my fandom reached all time high. I can remember many a homeroom, reciting the lines, doing the rubber mouthed impersonation and making my teachers cringe with annoyance. The movie was more than a cult classic, and it, along with The Mask released in the same year, made Jim Carrey a household name. But how does it hold up today, more than fifteen years later? In my humble opinion, pretty damn good.
After watching it for the first time in what seems like forever, I’m reminded of how much thought went into what people generally characterize as a stupid comedy. Carrey is at his zany best in this role and while his performance doesn’t lend itself to subtlety, the over the top nature of Ace is quite entertaining. Despite the film being primarily made up of one liners and grimaces, there are moments of real acting where a present day viewer can see the Jim Carrey that wowed us in The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine and I Love You Phillip Morris. Carrey has some real chops and while this film isn’t the best showcase of his acting skills, it’s a fine display of why he got popular in the first place. The rest of the cast does a fine job filling out the spaces, including Courtney Cox in an early role as a Dolphin executive, Tone Loc as Ace’s cop buddy and Sean Young as the police chief out to prove Ventura wrong.
One of the more interesting aspects of the movie, however, isn’t in the one liners but in the minutia that makes the experience still funny all these years later. The heart of Pet Detective is a well written whodunit involving a missing dolphin, a murder and a kidnapping, weaving many clues to the eventual nemesis throughout the film. If you haven’t seen it a while, check it out again and see if you can’t find all the hints and clues scattered throughout. Every time I’ve seen it, I’ve picked up on new nuggets in the movie and while I can pretty much recite most of the lines verbatim, it’s this very well written story that keeps me coming back for more. While the ending twist is fairly ridiculous, it completely works within the world of the film and gives the comedy a nice ground to work off of. It also helps that the character of Ace is genuinely likable and rarely annoying even when he’s bumbling around, causing mayhem.
To be fair, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective will never go down as one of the greatest comedies of all time, nor should it. The film is an above average comedic mystery that, thanks to a career making performance by Jim Carrey and very good story, has etched itself into the minds and heart of film fans everywhere. While many of the movie’s elements may seem dated by modern standards, it’s still a hoot to watch, even if nobody is doing the impersonation anymore. An adolescent classic of mine, it was nice revisiting a world where people talk out of their butts, make laces out cookies and win the day despite being lovably insane. While not on the level of classic, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is pretty damn good and yes, still pretty damn funny.
Score – 80%