'The Mask' without Jim Carrey?

Staff WriterFebruary 18, 2005 

Sorry, Alan Cumming, you're no Carrey substitute.

To paraphrase a line Richard Pryor used in one of his concert movies, "Son of the Mask" is weak, but you knew that.

Deep down, you also know that the original "Mask" was nothing to write home about, either. That 1994 movie became a runaway summer hit thanks to then-up-and-coming funnyman Jim Carrey's gleefully kamikaze performance as the poor schlub who puts on a mysterious green mask and becomes the beau of the ball wherever he goes.

After a decade, New Line has decided to release a sequel, without Jim Carrey, following in the great tradition of mediocre sequels not starring the people who made the original a hit. (New Line has already been down this road when it released a "Dumb and Dumber" prequel in 2003, without Carrey and Jeff Daniels.) "Son" was made specifically as a kiddie flick, so if you're an adult thinking about seeing this, you have way too much time on your hands.

Instead of Carrey, we get former WB prankster Jamie Kennedy, which is like replacing Clint Eastwood in a "Dirty Harry" movie with the guy who played Epstein on "Welcome Back, Kotter." Kennedy plays budding cartoonist Tim Avery (a nod to legendary Warner Bros. cartoonist Tex Avery), a poor schlub who, when he's not thinking of an idea for a hit cartoon show, spends most of his time skirting the issue of having children with his wife (Traylor Howard).

He gets hold of the Mask of Loki (his dog fishes it out of a pond) and puts it on one night at the company Halloween party, impressing his boss (Steven Wright, monotonous till the day he dies) and going half on a baby with the little woman later that night. (When he straps on that green-latex makeup, that's when you know for sure that Kennedy is no Jim Carrey.)

Nine months later, a baby boy shows up possessing many of the powers conferred by the mask. Avery's discovery of this -- he watches the tot while Mom is on a business trip, and the kid starts singing, dancing and doing all kinds of wacky, PG-rated stuff -- turns him into a nutso daddy.

Meanwhile, Loki (Alan Cumming), the god of mischief himself, is down on Earth looking to retrieve his mask so his all-knowing old man (Bob Hoskins -- Bob Hoskins!?!) will get off his back about it.

Basically 90 or so minutes of toilet humor and eye-popping, cartoonish special effects, "Son" is just another movie to keep children amused while the parents take a nap or go to a strip club or something. Director Lawrence Guterman, the guy who did "Cats & Dogs," and writer Lance Khazei throw in a few clever strikes (Before she leaves on her business trip, the harried mother tells Avery not to plop the little one in front of the TV: "It'll make him stupid."), but those come along, like, every 45 minutes.

Now, I could try to intellectualize this movie by saying that "Son" is really about a man's eventful, poignant journey into adulthood. Our protagonist realizes he can't be a wild child all his life when he finds himself raising one, something all men go through once they become fathers. But I'll save that for a more worthy flick.

With its garishly colored set designs (did they use the same sets from "The Cat in the Hat"?), in-your-face camera work and persistent, kid-pandering silliness, "Son of the Mask" couldn't be profound if Maya Angelou showed up out of nowhere and started reciting poetry. With the relentless absurdity this movie slings at you, I'm surprised the filmmakers didn't make that happen.

Staff writer Craig D. Lindsey can be reached at 829-4760 or clindsey@newsobserver.com.

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