Movie producers and filmgoers alike often enjoy plots in which the same actor can portray radically different characteristics. Films based on comic books often supply this plot motif because so many of them feature a hero who has a daytime personality that is remarkably at odds with his alter ego. Many of the comic book movie franchises explored by this column provide this character device in very serious terms. But it can also be played for laughs, and a terrific example is “The Mask,” from 1994.
“The Mask” stars Jim Carrey as Stanley Ipkiss, a socially awkward and much abused bank clerk. One day, the attractive Tina Carlyle (played by Cameron Diaz), comes in to check out the bank’s layout to better enable her crime boss boyfriend to rob it. She and Stanley have a connection which he attempts to pursue, only to be turned away from the nightclub where she works as a singer. Later that night, he finds an old wooden mask and brings it home. When he puts it on, Stanley turns into a bold and exuberant character called “The Mask,” who wears a yellow zoot suit and has a demonic green face. The Mask ends up robbing the bank as Dorian’s men are trying to. Stanley is shocked by what The Mask has done. He soon meets police detective Mitch Kellaway (played by Peter Riegert), who becomes suspicious of him.
It is hard to imagine that any actor other than Jim Carrey could have inhabited the role with the gusto shown here. He makes shy Stanley a very likeable character who is a fairly average guy, and he makes The Mask confrontational and cunning. From the make-up and costuming to the way he uses his body, he delivers two characters who are opposites. Cameron Diaz is equally good as Tina, who falls for Stanley as he falls for her. She likes him since he is a nice guy.
The special effects lend themselves to the colorful comic book style of the movie. In one scene, The Mask turns a balloon gun into a real one and shoots it at some people. In another scene, he bounces around as a character fires a shotgun at him.
“The Mask” is a must-see for Jim Carrey fans.