The peak of Jim Carrey’s career, in my mind, has always been the period of 1994-1995. In that span, he starred in Dumb & Dumber, The Mask, Batman Forever, and the two Ace Ventura movies (Pet Detective & When Nature Calls). Yes, he’s had later movies that have grossed more at the box office (Liar Liar, The Grinch, Bruce Almighty), but his popularity was never higher on such a consistent level.
Pet Detective, written by Jack Bernstein and directed by Tom Shadyac, tells the tale of Ace Ventura, a man so in love with animals he’s devoted his life to finding the pets that go missing — something the police consider extremely unimportant.
But the Miami Dolphins, with a few days before the Super Bowl, have their team mascot, Snowflake, kidnapped. The team turns to Ace Ventura to find it. Aided by Miami Dolphins liaison Melissa Robinson (Courtney Cox) and Miami Police Officer Emilio (Tone Loc), Ace sets on his investigation. He is hampered almost the entire way by Lt. Lois Einhorn (Sean Young).
Carrey lets loose throughout the entire movie, using some gags from his former stand-up comedy acts. His manic comedy works pretty well in this James Bond spoof, although he is surprisingly reserved, never going completely overboard in his jokes or stunts but always trying to push the envelope.
I have two favorite scenes in the movie. One is the scene in the hotel skyscraper where Ace solves a “suicide case” and the other is the sequence of Ace trying to find the Super Bowl ring with the missing diamond by searching the former Dolphins’ players and coaches. Ace in the mailbox is priceless.
In the sequel When Nature Calls, Ace’s services are needed in Africa to find a rare white bat to prevent a war between two rival tribes, the Wachati and the Wachootoo. The Wachati princess (Sophie Okonedo) is betrothed to a Wachootoo warrior (Tommy Davidson), and as tribute from the Wachati, the white bat is to be given to the Wachootoo. But the bat is stolen and the Wachootoo see its disappearance as a sign of disrespect.
With almost no clues, Ace sets off to find the bat, even though it’s his least favorite animal. He investigates the rich white men in the area, the Wachootoo tribe, and just about anything that walks. The perpetrator’s motive, although, seems a little too simple and easy for the likes of the pet detective.
All of the Ace Ventura trademarks are present, from the “All righty then’s” to the “Lo-se-her’s.” But in the sequel, Carrey actually manages to overdo the character. And it’s not just the dialogue; his body language is overdone as well, which is surprising given that he played Ace so well only a year earlier in the original. I think it’s more because of the direction than of Carrey’s acting. Without the director from the original to guide him, Carrey is left to Steve Oedekerk’s (of Thumb Wars fame) mishandling.
The first half of the movie is severely jumbled, even beginning with a unnecessary spoof of Sylvester Stallone’s Cliffhanger. The term randomness is taken to another level during the movie with scenes of Ace wearing a human body around his neck like a scarf or Ace driving a mechanical rhinoceros. It never seemed like Carrey was ever comfortable in the sequel.
The only special features are theatrical trailers and TV spots. Pet Detective has a commentary by Tom Shadyac. Warner Brothers also included a third disc featuring three episodes (“The Rein-Deer Hunter,” “Natural Born Koalas,” and “Dragon Guy”) from the animated series Ace Ventura, which I’m sad to report is a very substandard, greatly inferior version. I don’t think I giggled or smiled once in amusement. It’s hard to get involved in something when you can’t help but imagine Jim Carrey in the role, and only see a cartoon of something that kind of looks like him and only hear something that doesn’t really sound like him.
Considering the horrendous sequels of Jim Carrey movies that didn’t star Carrey (Son Of The Mask and Dumb & Dumberer), I can safely say that there probably won’t be one for Ace Ventura. So this Deluxe Double Feature of the two installments makes for a decent buy with Pet Detective finally getting a widescreen transfer. It’s just too bad there aren’t more bonus features.