In 10 Words or Less
The sequel that almost got away, but unfortunately didn't
The Story So Far...
In 1994's comic-book adaptation The Mask, Jim Carrey was unleashed as a nebbish bank clerk allowed to break free thanks to the cartoon-like powers given to him by a mystical wooden mask he finds. Playing off the animation of Tex Avery, Carrey got to play to his strengths and turned in a manic comic performance, while Cameron Diaz made her movie debut as the femme fatale. The $18 million film went on to earn over $300 million, but combined with Ace Ventura, which was released the same year, it made the planned sequel impossible due to Carrey's skyrocketing popularity.
DVDTalk has a review of the first film, here.
So, basically what we have here is The Mask, minus Carrey, minus Diaz and minus the silly action. What was added to fill in the blanks? A Carrey Lite in Jamie Kennedy ("The Jamie Kennedy Experiment"), a baby, and a dog. It doesn't take a Master's in mathematics to figure out the equation won't balance out.
This time around, the mask has found its way into the household of animation studio employee Tim Avery (Kennedy), a guy who fears fatherhood. His lack of maturity is mirrored in his day job, where he has to wear a turtle costume while he leads tours of the studio. What he really wants to do is create cartoons, but he can't catch a break. When his dog Otis brings him the mask he found, it changes his life in one night, thanks to a company Halloween party freak-out and a romantic encounter with his wife.
Soon he's got his dream job, but he's also got his nightmare, having impregnated his wife during his mask-fueled evening. Because of the mask, his new son Alvey is imbued with its powers. Learning from the cartoons his father shows him, including the Chuck Jones' classic "One Froggy Evening," he becomes a living 'toon. Of course, the mask is still in the picture, possessing Otis, turning him into a 'toon as well. What follows is a movie-sized episode of "Tom & Jerry," with Kennedy in the middle as an innocent bystander. Why bring in Kennedy and limit him to a few short scenes as The Mask? His talent for becoming characters, as seen on his show, should have been mined to better effect.
Otis and Alvey are both mainly computer creations, but the level of success on the part of the animators differs greatly. Otis' creators did an excellent job, down to the hairs on his snout. A more extreme version of a Looney Tunes character, he's fun to watch as he plays the Wile E. Coyote part to Alvey's Road Runner.
The animators working on the baby had a tougher and wholly thankless job, as it's nearly impossible to create a moving CGI baby that doesn't creep the hell out of audiences. Alvey's unusually mature face combined with a high-kicking body is just too weird to work. When sitting still, he's hyper-realistic, but any movement of his body pushes the creepy meter up.
Much better executed are the two traditionally-animated sequences, which help tie together Tim's animated world and his real world. One sequence with Otis and Alvey is done in a style reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and is a nice respite from the computer-generated 'toons.
There's a couple of cute jokes in the cartoon triangle of Tim-Otis-Alvey, along with some truly disgusting bodily-fluid sequences, but the comedy burden falls mostly on Alan Cumming, who plays the Norse god Loki, the creator of the mask. As a shape-shifting god who's disguising himself while searching for his lost mask on Earth, Cumming gets to cut loose the same way Carrey could in the first film. There's almost nothing Cumming can't do, but making this into a good movie is outside of the scope of his powers. His presence does make things a bit better though, along with the unusual appearance of Bob Hoskins as Loki's father, Odin.
New Line whips up another Platinum Series DVD, packaging the disc in a snazzy green (natch) keepcase with a shiny foil cover. Inside is a two-sided insert listing the chapter stops. The DVD features a heavily animated anamorphic widescreen main menu, followed by static menus based on scenes in the movie. Options available include play movie, set-up options, select scenes, special features and DVD-ROM features. The scene-selection menus have animated previews and titles for each scene, while the set-up options include English 5.1 and 2.0, and subtitles in English and Spanish.
For such an average film, the audio/video presentation is simply outstanding. The image on-screen often replicates the spectrum of a box of crayons, filling the screen with bright, vivid color. There's a tremendous amount of movement to this film, and it doesn't result in pixelation or blurring. The amount of detail, especially on Otis, is very high, and the animation, both traditional hand-drawn and digital, looks tremendous. Dirt, grain and damage are essentially non-existent. This is a beautiful transfer that's much better than this film probably deserves.
The audio is just as good, presenting a highly-active sound stage, with powerful surrounds. The mix follows the action on-screen, with very nice directionality and panning effects, and helps create an enveloping experience to complement the action scenes. Though a comedy, this soundtrack pumps with energy.
A feature-length audio commentary starts off the bonus features, with Kennedy, director Larry Guterman, writer Lance Khazei sharing the mic. Guterman and Khazei seem determined to deliver a straight-forward commentary, as Guterman brings pages of notes to help him out. But with Kennedy in the room, such hopes are short-lived, as he butts in and is generally as annoying as one of the characters on his TV show. The stories from the scribe and the helmer are informative, but Kennedy's comments are, for the most part, extraneous.
19 deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Guterman, can be viewed individually or through a play-all option. The clips include extended and alternate scenes, as well as some that were excised from the final film. The director provides notes about why some scenes were removed, but he becomes a play-by-play man as well.
"Paw Prints and Baby Steps: On the Set of Son of the Mask" is a 16-minute look at what it takes to work with two of the most difficult movie stars: babies and dogs. The featurette follows the shoot from casting to filming in terms of preparing the children and pups for their turn in the spotlight. One viewing explains why filmmakers dread working with them, which is interesting for anyone interested in the process. There's no glossing over the trouble these tiny divas cause.
The dogs and babies are the focus again in the nearly 15-minute long "Creating the Son of the Mask: Digital Diapers and Dog Bytes." This time, it's not the real ones being profiled, but the CGI creations. The featurette has lots of preliminary animation, and shows how much work went into the look of the film. Unfortunately, the concerns the creators express here about their digital baby are legitimate.
"Chow Bella - Hollywood's Pampered Pooches" has no connection to the feature, except the presence of dogs. Despite that, it's an interesting piece that looks at people who care a bit too much for their canines. For 15 minutes, this is a peek at a world that's almost as strange as the one seen in the movie.
Three art galleries and two storyboard sequences get back to the film, with some info on how the visuals of the film were developed. The unique presentation of the Cool Car Design Concepts is one worth stealing by other producers, while the people behind this disc deserve credit for producing the entire disc in anamorphic widescreen. That includes the final extras, the film's theatrical trailer and several other previews.
Pop this disc into your DVD-ROM drive, and several more features are availale through the InterActual Player. Seven printable items, including five coloring pages, puzzles, a game, stationary and door hangers, are accompanied by three installable desktop alarm clocks, which can only be described as entirely annoying. There are also links to New Line sites.
The Bottom Line
11 years later and without the real star, this Mask follow-up definitely fails to compare favorably with the original, but it's not as bad as might be expected from the reviews. Any fan of classic animation will enjoy the homages to Avery and Jones. The filmmakers were visually ambitious, and having Cumming around didn't hurt their efforts to garner some laughs. The DVD's presentation of the look and sound is wonderful, and the extras are good for at least one look. It's not likely that anyone without a small child in their family will find a need to own this, but it could make for a decent rental.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.