- Street Date:
- December 9th, 2008
- Reviewed by:
- Drew Taylor
- Review Date: 1
- March 30th, 2009
- Movie Release Year:
- New Line
- 97 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG-13
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Though it has aged badly, The Mask seems like a movie that was many years ahead of its time.
First, it was based on an offbeat cult comic book (created by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke, and published by Mike Richardson’s Dark Horse Comics), a practice which seems to be the norm nowadays (look no further than this spring’s Watchmen for proof). Second, with its then-cutting-edge use of computer graphics augmentation, it gave a sense of cartoon-y whimsy to what would have been an otherwise straightforward action picture (taken to the nth degree, we’re now given something like 'Speed Racer'). And finally, it saw the potential in a little-known comic named Jim Carrey, who would go on to become a box office juggernaut.
The storyline of The Mask concerns one Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey), a loveable loser who works at a bank and lets everyone walk all over him. One night he stumbles upon a mystical, vaguely defined mask that turns him into the titular antihero. Forgoing the comic book’s hyper-violence, the film instead turns Ipkiss into an even goofier Nutty Professor – an over-caffeinated raconteur able to stretch, squash, and manipulate himself and others in the tradition of famous animator Tex Avery.
From there, things get more complicated, as his outlandish tomfoolery soon attracts the attention of a group of villainous gangsters (led by Eric Roberts stand-in Peter Greene) and the police (led by Peter Riegert stand-in Peter Riegert). The movie climaxes with a siege on a charity ball (in keeping with the cartoon feeling, the money for the charity is held in a giant pink piggie), with Greene wearing the mask, amplifying his evil. This is when the movie shifts into all out lunacy, with multiple (human and non-human) wearers of the mask, gun fights, explosives, the whole bit, and it all ends up being a little… blah.
The Mask isn’t an exceptional film in any way, really. Besides the truly rubbery performance by Jim Carrey (this was him at his most raw and undiluted), and some of the visual effects (others are pretty uninspired), this is a cheap action movie with some B-movie gangsters and garish visuals thrown in. Director Chuck Russell’s lackluster authorship is all over this thing – scenes go on for too long, camera placement is awkward, and the movie lacks any real flow or narrative drive with tonal inconsistencies a plenty.
If it weren’t for Carrey, and the introduction of Cameron Diaz in her first big screen role, the movie might have slid even further into the realms of the obscure. No matter how cutting-edge it may have seemed at the time, the movie has aged horribly. But could this Blu Ray breath new life into the film?
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Honestly, I was shocked by this single-layer 1080p VC-1 1.85:1 transfer. This must be the best this movie has ever, ever looked. The movie has been plagued from its original home video inception with muddy visuals; the garish lights of Edge City bleeding into the picture and giving everything an orange-y tint. Sometimes it still goes over the top, with some digital noise, but it wasn’t enough to quell my enthusiasm for the transfer (there’s no noticeable grain or visual blips).
Contrast has been upped to give the entire movie more depth and clarity, really bringing the fictional Las Vegas-meets-Detroit vibe of Edge City to life. And the effects really pop in this transfer, for better or worse, since with their added sheen, they seem a bit more disconnected from the actual movie.
While certainly not a reference-quality presentation, you could show The Mask Blu Ray to anyone who saw it in the theaters or on home video and say “Now, look at THIS” and they would be very, very impressed.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Again, the True HD 5.1 track is really, really great (but, again, nothing that you’ll throw on for your “awesome home theater” demonstration). The cartoon-y nature of the movie means the more outlandish scenes are better served by the fairly impressive sound mix (when Carrey is ping-ponging down an apartment corridor, for instance, all channels are worked vigorously).
Dialogue-heavy scenes, supported by a great front-speaker mix, really shine, with very little in the way of ambience or in-between sound. It’s either boom, kapow, klang, or it’s two people talking in the front speakers. There’s very little in the way of middle ground, audio-wise. Still, I would say this is a solid mix – loud and aggressive when it needs to be, sporting great front-speaker mix. Honestly – the movie has probably never sounded this good, either.
The audio package is augmented by a perfectly listenable standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in both English and German (with English or German subtitles).
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
All supplements are in standard definition; very disappointing indeed. Also disappointing is the fact that Jim Carrey doesn’t participate in any of the special features. It’s weird and distracting.
- Audio commentary with Director Chuck Russell, New Line Cinema Co-Chairman Bob Shaye, Writer Mike Werb, Executive Producer Mike Richardson, Producer Bob Engelman, Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Squires, Animation Supervisor Tom Bertino and Cinematographer John Leonetti – If you’re going to listen to one of the two commentary tracks provided here, this is the one to go for. Everyone provides super-useful information from their point of view, and with so many participants, you might think things would go a little off the rails, but whoever edited it does so superbly. A little vocal placeholder will pop in, letting you know it’s “writer Mike Werb” or whoever, so in case you forgot what a person sounds like you’ll be covered. This track does seem cobbled together from different interviews, but whoever put it together does a good job to match the content of the commentary with what’s happening on screen. (For example, someone will be talking about the bank heist sequence while the bank heist sequence is on the screen, etc.) You’ll learn a lot of great tidbits about the making of the movie (like how visual effects house Industrial Light & Magic assigned its B-team to the movie, which ended up getting praised for its visual effects). Some of the commentary may seem redundant, with similar ground covered in the special features documentaries, but this lively track is still worth a listen.
- Audio commentary with Director Chuck Russell – This is the other commentary track option, very dry and very dated (at one point he says “see if you can rewind on your laserdisc”). Laserdisc, huh? Nothing that’s presented here can’t be gleamed from the other commentary or other special features.
- Return to Edge City (27:16) A nice, fairly comprehensive making of documentary, which covers the whole history of the project (it was originally conceived as a successor to the Nightmare on Elm Street series, as a kind of horror-comedy), with interviews from all the principle cast and crew.
- Introducing Cameron Diaz (13:17) Detailing the miraculous hiring of Cameron Diaz in painstaking detail. Really. I get it. Cameron Diaz was hired on The Mask as a fortuitous fluke and now she’s a big star. Let’s move on.
- Cartoon Logic (13:43) This was my favorite special feature by far, an investigation into the animated origins of some of The Mask’s best gags. Animation historians are interviewed, and footage from old Tex Avery cartoons is juxtaposed with what occurred in the movie. It’s really great – light but heavy with information. Just great.
- What Makes Fido Run (10:51) While this is supposed to be about the dog in The Mask, and how it performed a lot of the astounding stunts in the movie (there’s a great section about how they taught him to “put on the mask” in one of the movie’s most beloved scenes), it soon opens up to be about animal actors in Hollywood and I kind of checked out. I’d say – first five minutes, great, last five minutes, you can skip.
- Additional scenes with commentary with Chuck Russell (3:54 total) Just a couple of minor scenes – one is an alternate opening sequence, with Vikings traveling to America just to dispose of the haunted mask. This scene is cheap looking and unfinished, and would have added nothing to the movie. The second scene is the death sequence for morally ambiguous reporter Peggy (Amy Yasbeck) and is pretty entertaining. I won’t spoil it here.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are no Blu-ray exclusives.
While The Mask was a crummy-looking movie that’s aged horribly, this Blu Ray release does a lot to revitalize it. The video quality was shockingly great, and the audio, while not firing on all cylinders, is still fair. Add to that a wealth of bonus features and, even if you haven’t seen it in ten years, but loved it when it came out, it’s definitely recommended.
- BD-25 Single Layer
- English True HD 5.1
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- German Dolby Digital 2.0
- English Subtitles
- German Subtitles
- Audio Commentaries
- Theatrical Trailer
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