This past Sunday, July 28th marked the 25th Anniversary of the Jim Carrey starring film ‘The Mask’ directed by Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Eraser) and below I explore the film’s charms and dive into why it still holds up today. Those who might like to revisit the movie in honor of the anniversary can find it currently available to stream on HBONOW, in addition to various other platforms and physical media formats.
For those two or three people out there unfamiliar with the film, ‘The Mask’ tells the tale of lonely, nice guy Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey) who works at the local bank during the days suffering at the hands of the boss, and tends to spend most of his free time at home watching classic cartoons with his lovable dog Milo and trying to avoid the wrath of his unbearable landlady; but when Stanley happens across a random, wooden mask floating in the water his life changes forever. Unaware of it serving any unique purpose, Stanley is blown away when putting on the mask endows him with unique powers and the ability to do just about anything he can imagine, not to mention being immune to the likes of pesky bullets and other dangers. But when a local crime boss running a popular club in town discovers The Mask following a botched robbery that The Mask was largely responsible for, things begin getting far more dangerous, especially with the police starting to suspect Ikpiss on top of everything else. The film was originally released on July 29, 1994 (with a Beverly Hills Premiere on July 28) by New Line Cinema/Warner Bros. and still holds up remarkably well 25 years later in most respects.
Even after twenty-five years of vast improvements in technology and on the moviemaking front, ‘The Mask’ still manages to hold its own surprisingly well for a number of reasons, one in particular being the impressive graphics that are still superior to many films today, allowing The Mask to do everything from become flattened roadkill to transforming into a cartoon wolf with seamless ease and even by today’s standards doing so with smooth and detailed near perfection. Add to that the fitting tone and vivid coloring of Edge City that’s so prominent throughout the film, really crafting a comic book tone and environment in a unique and magnificent manner, something countless films have tried to duplicate in the decades since with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, even watching ‘The Mask’ today it still holds up with the best of them, and succeeds in various other ways such as the perfect use of Jim Carrey and his rubbery talents (even reportedly cutting down on the cost of effects due to his mannerisms and ability to twist up his face without requiring any post production touches) while wisely never relying simply on Carrey to carry the entire film; carefully crafting a unique and gorgeous world and a capable list of supporting talent (including Cameron Diaz’s film debut) to balance it all perfectly, and not afraid to get a bit violent and dark on occasion albeit in a generally comic manner (although certainly nowhere near the level of the Dark Horse Comics series it was based upon and even one notably dark moment from the film ended up on the cutting room floor; although it can be found as an extra on various releases of the film).
Overall, ‘The Mask’ is just wacky, clever and strange enough to still be thoroughly enjoyable after 25 years. Offering impressive effects that still don’t disappoint, a unique and brightly colored environment to encompass the fun and a wild merging of genres that oddly enough manages to work here, jumping without warning from musical numbers to old school cartoon antics brought to breathtaking life and even slipping into somewhat of a romantic comedy at times, all of which somehow morphs together into this wonderful little film called ‘The Mask’ that’s still nearly as much fun today as it was when I first caught it in theaters 25 years ago. Altogether it holds up to the test of time remarkably well (at least thus far), so don’t hesitate to go revisit this comedic gem in honor of its anniversary and remind yourself of just how clever, enjoyable and visually spectacular it truly is.