I just watched The Mask for the first time in a decade. It is a charming film. And in a sense, I am more the target audience for the film than just about anything else I can think of. It appeals to all the prejudices of the kind of guy who thinks that he’s “nice” and walked around with a puppet on a stick for many of his teen years. And I still spend a fair amount of time watching Bugs Bunny. He is one of my heroes. And yes, he is a hare.
But as one gets older (if he is paying attention at all), one notices one’s prejudices. And the “nice guys finish last” trope has come to annoy me. It’s also, I’m afraid, really sexist. The truth is that men and women make terrible mistakes in their love lives. In my experience, nothing is as attractive as self-confidence. And it is often true that people who are self-confident are jerks. I suspect it works differently from the way many people think. Being highly desirable makes people self-confident, but it also makes them more selfish. It’s human nature.
Of course, in The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss is a truly nice guy. I say that because he likes cartoon and has a great dog that likes him. And what is sweet about the film is that Stanley wins the girl the way men have always won the girl: by allowing her to see past all the discomfort and pretense to who he really is. This is why the ending is so sweet with Tina Carlyle (played surprisingly well by Cameron Diaz) throwing away the mask. The truth is, Stanley’s unchecked id was a bit too much for her, but surely she likes knowing that it lives within him.
On a technical level, there are some problems with the film. But I doubt anyone watching the film for the first time notices. As soon as Dorian Tyrell (the bad guy, played by Peter Greene) gets the mask, the film stalls. I understand the problem. You can’t make Tyrell the wacky character that Ipkiss turned into. But the mask doesn’t bring out his naughty child; it just seems to turn him into a more angry version of himself. So those scenes are tiresome. What’s more, I’m afraid that Greene is miscast in the part, because he is too convincing a heavy.
But things do pick up, as Ipkiss breaks out of jail and eventually takes us to the climax of film that is as zany and wonderful as anything that came before. It just would have been a whole lot better to move faster from the point of reporter Peggy Brandt’s double-cross to Ipkiss’ escape. They could have trimmed five or even ten minutes from the film and sped into the third act without driving through a pothole that upsets a very consistent momentum throughout the rest of the film.
Really though: what’s not to love? Jim Carrey has never been so adorable. The script is the silliest of fun. And it has the cutest dog ever. I don’t know why I waited this long to watch it again.