1½ stars (out of 4)
A decade ago, Jim Carrey followed up his breakout hit, "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," with "The Mask," a thin, formulaic big-screen outlet for his then-fresh shenanigans and the then-cutting-edge special effects of the Industrial Light & Magic design firm.
Ah, the early '90s, when it was still relatively sane to assume that characters and stories mattered more than CGI and that computer-generated bells and whistles were in service of the plot, not the other way around.
We were all so young, so naïve.
Fast-forward in your Apple-animated Zeppelin against your blue screen to 2005, when words like "character driven" and "shot on location" are just too adorableand the phrase "sequel to 'The Mask'" sends studio execs into fits of fancy.
This "Mask" stars Jamie Kennedy ("Malibu's Most Wanted") as Tim Avery, a schlubby, aspiring cartoonist who gives kiddie tours of Animagine, a creativity factory (think Disney) run by animation guru Daniel Moss (an utterly wasted Steven Wright). Tim has been branded by Daniel as "lacking spark," and so in typical defeatist behavior grabs some old green mask that the dog dragged in as his costume for the company Halloween party.
But guess what? It's not any old mask. It's wooden spark, giving its wearer special powers such as the ability to spin really fast and stretch limbs and dance like a Fly Girl and imitate Jim Carrey poorly. Tim impresses the boss man and then goes home to impregnate his wife, who nine months later gives birth to The Son of the Mask.
Congratulations, it's a talking, dancing, top-hat-wearing boy! Just like in those incredibly innovative Quiznos commercials and that sitcom that got cancelled a while back. Apparently director Lawrence Guterman was attracted to the film because it digs deep into issues of parenting and asks, "What would happen if suddenly [your] baby had powers and could get up and sing and dance?"
Though showbiz surely calls, at first baby Alvey is careful not to reveal any of his superpowers. But when mom goes out of town on business and leaves Alvey with Tim, the creepy digital lips come out. All the while Alan Cumming's Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, combs the planet for his long-lost mask, which his Gandalf-like father, Odin, has sent him to retrieve.
But none of this plot stuff matters. The focus of the film is a 20-minute CGI face off between Tim's attention-deprived, mask-possessed dog and demon baby. Because even with a new leading man and a more family-friendly rating, some things never change: "The Mask" still stars Industrial Light & Magic.
"Son of the Mask"
Directed by Lawrence Guterman; written by Lance Khazei; photographed by Greg Gardiner; edited by Malcolm Campbell; production designed by Leslie Dilley; music by Randy Edelman; produced by Erica Huggins, Scott Kroopf. A New Line Cinema release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:26. MPAA rating: PG (action, crude and suggestive humor and language).
Tim Avery - Jamie Kennedy
Loki - Alan Cumming
Odin - Bob Hoskins
Daniel Moss - Steven Wright