The Mask

Review by Guido Henkel

The Mask  (1994)
New Line Home Video

Length:        101 mins.
Rated:          PG-13
Format:       Letterboxed · 1.85:1
                      Pan&Scan
Languages:English, French
Subtitles:    English, French, Spanish

In 1994, when "The Mask" saw its original theatrical release, it was an instant success, catapulting its star Jim Carrey to Hollywood’s major league overnight. The movie impressed the public and critics alike, partially because of its mind-boggling computer generated special effects -- in fact, those effects still hold up extremely well these days, in a world where every cheesy commercial and TV series are plastered with computer generated images.

Part of the reason "The Mask" is so effective is because of the care taken in blending live acting with the special effects -- a feat pulled off so well that sometimes it’s hard to tell what you are looking at. Jim Carrey’s trademark hyperactive, full-bodied acting and rubberface mimicry makes it even harder to distinguish and thus lends credibility to the comic style movie.

The movie revolves around mild-mannered, diffident bank teller Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey), living a lonely live with his dog Milo, spending his spare time watching old Tex Avery cartoons in his pajamas. He is so warm-hearted that, even while he’s entertaining thoughts of suicide, he tries to rescue what he thinks to be a drowning person floating in an icy river. However, after jumping into the water, he discovers that the body is simply flotsam and the face an odd wooden mask. Though he’s unaware of this, the mask contains the imprisoned spirit of Loki, the Norse God of mischief. When Ipkiss finally puts it on, it morphs him into a grotesque embodiment of his own dreams, fantasies and wishes. Out of control as "The Mask", Ipkiss becomes a bank-robber, ladykiller, pogo-stick, timebomb and finally a target of both gangsters and the police. When gangster boss Dorian (Peter Green) gets hold of the powerful mask, things get maliciously dangerous for Ipkiss.

"The Mask" lives mostly on Carrey’s outstanding performance - and that of his dog Milo, for that matter - and the movie seems written to give this masterful comedian a chance to show off his talents. Carrey is yet another descendant of the long line of Canadian comedians that came to fame in Hollywood, and the success he experienced with "The Mask" is well deserved. His portrayal of the indestructible, sexually omnipotent comic character and the ease with which he switches back and forth between the outrageous comic character and the nerdy banker is nothing less than admirable.

One integral part of the movie is its special effects, created by Industrial Light and Magic, the company renowned for raising the stakes in special effects higher with every film, has once again outdone itself with this movie. They achieved the unachievable by turning the characters of the movie into "living" comic characters. They convincingly bend, twist and exaggerate human behavior and anatomy to the point that you inevitably start wondering whether you’re watching a motion picture or a cartoon.

Due to its nature, "The Mask" is a very colorful movie and its transfer to DVD is well done. The colors are rich and saturated, without noticeable chroma noise or bleed. The disc contains the 1.85:1 widescreen version of the movie as well as its Pan&Scan counterpart on the flip side of the disc. Even though the Pan&Scan version is pretty nice, cropping the sides of the image only slightly, John R. Leonetti’s spectacular cinematography is so rich and detailed that you would rather take a look at the original widescreen transfer. The movie has an excellent, active 5.1 channel soundtrack that literally pulls you on-stage in the underrated musical numbers, which are some of the film’s highlights. Even in the Dolby Surround version, the sound is full and lively, adding to the movie’s whirlwind feel. "The Mask" comes dubbed in English and French, with selectable subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

Chuck Russell’s "The Mask" is pure family entertainment that, in a way, revives the old and glamorous Hollywood tradition of musicals. It is absolutely hilarious, and even if you have never been a fan of Jim Carrey, you will be stunned by this piece of modern filmmaking.

    

January 1, 1998

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