THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"SON OF THE MASK"

When Jim Carrey doesnít want to make a sequel to one of his movies, it seems as though someone goes ahead and makes the sequel without him. Last year, we got the aptly named Dumb and Dumberer, which recast Carreyís Dumb and Dumber character as a teenager. This year, we get Son of the Mask, which keeps the general concept of the original but has no Jim Carrey and no Cameron Diaz. Thereís just a familiar green mask. Has it not occurred to Hollywood that no one wants to see Carrey-less sequels? Isnít that kind of obvious, or have they completely underestimated the comedianís appeal?

The hero this time is Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy), an aspiring cartoonist. Timís wife Tonya (Traylor Howard) is pressuring him to have a baby, but heís not sure that heís ready for that responsibility yet. One night, Otis the family dog brings a green mask he found into the house. (We, of course, know what it is.) Tim thinks itís a Halloween mask and wears it to an office party. He is instantly transformed into a green-faced wild man.

After returning home late at night, Timís alter ego hops into bed with Tonya and impregnates her. Nine months later, the baby is born imbued with all the powers of the mask, which means he can blow his own head up like a balloon and pee in four different directions simultaneously, among other things. Since Tim doesnít even remember sleeping with his wife, he is perplexed as to how she got pregnant; even more surprising is the babyís behavior. He knows something is wrong but canít pinpoint it.

Meanwhile, an ancient god named Odin (Bob Hoskins) sends his son Loki (Alan Cumming) down to earth to locate the mask, which has magical powers of chaos. (It seems that Loki was somewhat careless in handling it.) Loki eventually tracks down the mask at Timís house. Thus begins a battle royale with the baby, who is determined to fight off the creepy stranger.

Son of the Mask hits a wrong note almost from the beginning. It sets the story in a fictitious world where Tim has bizarre neighbors who live in oddly-shaped homes with outrageous color schemes. The original Mask captured a sense of chaos let loose in a mundane world. Jim Carrey played a bank loan officer whose humdrum existence was radically flipped on its ear whenever he put on the mask. Suddenly his id exploded, allowing him to be wild and crazy. He even won the heart of the girl whom he was normally too shy to really talk to. That contrast made the comedy really effective. Son of the Mask, in comparison, starts off in a world that is already weird and then just gets weirder. This is fundamentally the wrong approach to take with the material. It should be about insanity unleashed from the restraints of normality. Going from one extreme to the other is very funny; starting at one extreme and then going even further is less funny.

A major part of the appeal in both Mask films is the use of special effects. Jim Carrey is, naturally, his own special effect, but the computer-generated enhancement of his zany manner was a strong selling point for the original. This time, the effects are a mixed bag. Some of them are downright bad. These would be the ones in which computers were used to make it look like the baby is doing unnatural things (i.e. dancing, picking up furniture, etc.). This kind of effect has been used before - Baby Geniuses 2 was the most recent to do so Ė and the technology just isnít there yet. It looks hopelessly fakey. Other times, the filmmakers attempt to create a photorealistic CGI baby, which looks terrible next to the real actors. Itís like a character from The Polar Express suddenly walks into a scene.

What I did enjoy were the effects that are obviously intended to be cartoonish in their visual style. As in the original film, Son of the Mask has moments when it feels like a Tex Avery cartoon come to life. Thereís nothing in here that approaches genius level, but some of the moments are admittedly amusing. One of my favorites is when Loki attacks the masked Tim with a gigantic pencil, and he responds by whipping out an equally big pencil sharpener. Although pretty much everything else in the movie is lame, I was intermittently entertained by the wackiness of the effects. Every time I really started to get bored, some off-the-wall special effect woke me up.

Donít mistake that for an endorsementÖunless youíre eight years old. There is an audience for this movie, but Iím not in it. Kids under the age of ten might get the giggles; adults are more likely to look at their watches or think about chores that need to be done at home. Jamie Kennedy is not an untalented guy, but heís no Jim Carrey. Nor is the screenplay nearly as sharp as the one for the original. Son of the Mask is about as unnecessary as sequels can get.

( out of four)


Son of the Mask is rated PG for action, crude and suggestive humor and language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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