It’s easy to love what The Mask is paying tribute too. Using the extravagant visual effects of 1994, overloading it with a sugary dose of Jim Carrey, and upping the mania to 10,000, this is Tex Avery’s work brought to life.
Say what you will about it not following the true source material, that of the Dark Horse comic with an eye for hefty violence. This is a blending of those two ideals, the wackiness of cartoons and the mask that starts it all off. Toss in Cameron Diaz in her first role, and this becomes a further blending of ’30s and ’40s mob pictures (complete with dialogue), heist movie, and cheeseball ’90s crime comedy (the bad guys are bad ’cause they have ponytails).
The Mask has not aged well. The closest comparison these days is to a movie starring Chris Tucker, a bit too loud and obnoxious. This is the perfect movie for a kid, certainly not low on energy, color, and visual effects. By the time Carrey is pulling out maracas and leading the entire police force down the street in a conga, the antics have long since run their course.
By no means a “bad” movie in any regard, Mask tries to be a little of everything. It’s great to see a film that goes for it all, pushing out any explanation or maddening realism. It likes to do whatever it can, pushing boundaries that carries the mask-wearing Carrey from a clock smashing goofball to a multi-weapon hoarding nutball. The film is able to get away with it too because it never tries to find any kind of a middle ground.
This movie doesn’t even tone down its villain, out to steal not just from a charity fund for orphans, but war orphans, as if one or the other wasn’t bad enough. As the dog is taken over by the ancient mask’s power, all elements goes berserk, as if they hadn’t previously. Everything is still fresh on a case-by-case basis, but The Mask is almost a little too proud of what it accomplished. There is little doubt this is an effects landmark, still holding up to some scrutiny today, and it just keeps going… and going… that pink drummer bunny couldn’t withstand the onslaught here.
With the mask, Carrey isn’t all fun though, at one point turning into a rather creepy “romantic” Frenchman who seems one step shy of raping Diaz in a park. When it’s later revealed that it transforms the person into whatever they want to be on the inside, well, that changes everything about our hero. Maybe that’s a piece of the comic coming through. Whatever the case, that’s an odd fit, leaving a somewhat sour taste on a film that seems likely to entertain the kids.
Warner/New Line issues a VC-1 encode for this Blu-ray debut. For a bit of important history, a special edition DVD was issued in 2005, and that’s almost assuredly the same master that’s used here. It has “dated” written all over it, from the clumpy, thick grain (when it’s even visible), pervasive softness, and overblown color.
There are a number of areas to begin discussing, but the colors are interesting. The idea, no doubt, was to give the film added life via saturation. It is appropriate to the material after all. Everything is intentionally overdone, from the yellow suit initially worn by Carrey to the vivid red dress worn by Diaz when she first walks into the bank. Since definition is so astoundingly poor here, those colors bleed out everywhere. Even the green of the mask (after it’s been put on) doesn’t seem to hold together very well.
No artifacting is apparent, the relative lack of grain keeping that issue at bay while introducing a host of others. Medium shots turn to mud, with a filtered look that is inescapable as light DNR. Close-ups resolve fine detail only when that term is saddled with “extreme.” Exteriors are bland, the night club’s neons only accentuated because of their brilliant color. A testament to the effects, those hold up well in HD, although this isn’t exactly coming from the highest quality master in the first place. That said, shots that hold waiting for some CG work display a slight sharpening effect, heightened by a mild noise. Before dodging the first bullets in the nightclub, Carrey exhibits this artifact.
Black levels exhibit a dull quality, sufficient for the material, while lacking a real inky, lifelike quality (odd to say for anything in this movie). During the alley hold-up, crush is definitive in its presence, wiping out the marginal shadow detail that was present before. Contrast is equally bland, a movie like this needing a nice push from the brighter portions of the screen that it never gets.
Audio also exhibits evidence of its age. The front channels are by far and away the winners here, the stereo split spectacular. As the Tasmanian Devil impersonation takes hold of the mask-wearer, that person zips about the room, captured in a fine pan side-to-side. Gunfire is placed strongly in the fronts as well, the positional work here unmistakable. There’s even some dialogue and other effects breaking free of the center.
The surrounds are where things go dead, and before any statements are made about ’90s sound design, Jurassic Park was released a year prior. Major theatrical releases had arrived long before this. Those guns firing off in the stereos? Yeah, they mostly stay there with a stray bullet pinging off an object from time to time. The nightclub is lacking in a full, rich ambiance, and few of the mask-based antics reach the surrounds. Music might be the only highlight, boisterous and loud.
Where that fails (shocker) is in the low-end, the subwoofer given a paltry bit of work to play with. The familiar heart gag as Carrey first watches Diaz’s act catches where it should, while the fidelity fails it. Carrey eventually swallows dynamite too, exploding it inside his stomach, and the boom that accompanies that is flat as well. Range is fairly poor too, again with the exceptions of the songs, the whole thing almost sounding compressed while the TrueHD logo says otherwise.
The 2005 DVD release seems to be present everywhere, as all of the extras are carried over, although not a fault in terms of bonuses. There are two commentaries, the first with director Chuck Russell going solo, and the second with Russell joined by effects people & producers. Return to Edge City details the making of the film, and its darker origins. Introducing Cameron Diaz tells the story of how she almost gave up the role (and her eventual stardom). What Makes Fido Run shows dog trainers at work, while providing tips. Two deleted scenes also carry a commentary by Russell, the second a wise cut.