Yes, I did have a good birthday, thank you. Since I turned 25 this year, it got me thinking. Three of my favourite comedy films came out in the year I was born and they were all hits and all 3 starred Jim Carrey. Therefore, this week I want to talk about the 3 movies that I like to call ‘The Jim Carrey 3’ to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of their respective releases.
First up. Released on February 4th, 1994 is ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’.
It should be noted that although Ace Ventura is arguably the role that Carrey is best known for, the film was not his first lead role in a comedy film. ‘Copper Mountain (1983)’, ‘All in Good Taste (1983)’, ‘Once Bitten (1985)’, ‘Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)’ and ‘High Strung (1991)’ were all comedy films with Jim Carrey in the main cast.
Carrey had also been a regular in a sketch comedy series called ‘In Living Colour’ from 1990 until 1994 where he performed stand-up comedy which mostly consisted of impressions. Carrey’s unusual style of physical comedy was a hit with the audience, and he remained as a regular for all 5 seasons.
The script for ‘Ace Ventura’ was commissioned by Morgan Creek Productions as they were after a comedy with mass appeal. Tom Shadyac who had previously been an uncredited gag writer penned the script with Jack Bernstein whose previous writing credits included an episode of ‘Danger Theatre’, and episode of ‘Rachel Gunn, R.N.’ and three episodes of ‘Broken Badges’.
Originally, the character of Ace Ventura was meant to be more of a Sherlock Holmes parody, but it was Jack Bernstein’s idea to make the character more ‘pet’ related apparently after watched a sketch on the Letterman show about pet owners. Once the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ concept had been abandoned, Ace Ventura was rewritten to be a complete idiot but when Jim Carrey came on board, the character was rewritten again into who we see on the screen.
For the lead role of Ace Ventura, the pair approached Rick Moranis who had made a name for himself as a prominent comedy actor in such films as the first two Ghostbusters and ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’. Moranis turned the role down. Other actors such as Judd Nelson and Alan Rickman were considered along with Whoopi Goldberg.
Due to his performance on ‘In Living Colour’, Jim Carrey was approached for the role. He agreed under the condition that he could perform rewrites on the script, would be allowed to improvise on set and would be able to leave the project if it wasn’t for him.
Here is the basic plot outline for ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’.
Set in Miami, Ace Ventura is a ‘pet detective’, so called because he investigates cases involving animals. When the mascot for the Miami Dolphins, a bottlenose dolphin called ‘Snowflake’ is kidnapped, Ace Ventura is called in to investigate.
That’s not much to go on but that’s all you need to know.
I think it’s fair to say that the main aspect driving this film is Ace Ventura himself due to his eccentric, extravagant, and hilarious means of solving cases and working his way around problems. The opening scene gives us a glimpse as to who Ace Ventura is as a person.
During the opening credits, Ace, dressed as a delivery man, kicks a fragile down a street and into an apartment block where he delivers the very broken package to a gruff and unfriendly gentleman (Randall Cobb). In a move known as the ‘old switcheroo’, Ace swaps the man’s dog for a like-for-like soft toy and takes the real dog back to the owner, a very good looking young lady (Rebecca Ferratti). Preferring to be paid in cash for his services, the lady offers to have sex with him instead, an offer Ace cannot refuse.
I’m not sure how much input Carrey had in terms of his wardrobe or the unusual hair style but it’s very clear that Carrey created the character of Ace Ventura to the way he speaks and the way he moves. In an interview, Carrey revealed that Ace’s iconic walk was inspired by a bird walking by the side of a pond. The clip is on YouTube and I didn’t put it together until I saw it.
Back to the plot
Soon, Ace is called in by the Head of PR, Melissa Robinson who was played by Courteney Cox. ‘Ace Ventura’ came out in the February of 1994 so Courteney Cox was soon to become a big star when the first season of ‘Friends’ aired in the September and the last film role that she had before ‘Friends’ aired was ‘Ace Ventura’.
Ace and Melissa soon team up to find Snowflake but now before Ace visits the police department and we see how he’s treated by the local law enforcement. His friend and contact is Emilio (Tone Loc) but Ace isn’t above being ridiculed by the other officers such as Sergeant Aguado (John Capodice) and Lt Lois Einhorn (Sean Young) who is a particular thorn in Ace’s side.
In the search for Snowflake, Ace finds a stone in Snowflake’s tank which could only belong to a 1984 AFC Championship ring that was worn by the Miami Dolphins. That year, superstar kicker, Ray Finkle joined the team and missed the final field goal which caused the Dolphins to lose the Superbowl. Finkle blamed fellow teammates, Dan Marino who had to the seemingly simple but actually difficult task of playing himself in the film. This is American football which I don’t understand (I don’t understand English football either) but I’ll do my best here. Apparently, when holding the ball for a kick, the laces of the ball need to be pointing outwards but Finkle claimed that Marino held the ball with the laces facing inwards which caused the ball to sail wide and miss the goal.
With the Superbowl right around the corner, Ace identifies motive for kidnapping Snowflake since the absence of their prize mascot around the Superbowl would throw off the game of the superstitious players.
After visiting Finkle’s parents (Bill Zuckert and Alice Drummond), Ace is told that Finkle was sent to Shady Acres Mental Hospital where he escaped 8 years previous. This gives Ace an idea.
What follows is the funniest scene I have ever witnessed and I don’t say that lightly. Some things you watch and find funny but if you watch them too many times, they become less special. That has never happened whilst watching Ace Ventura trying to convince a doctor that he is a football player who has gone insane. What’s even better is the realisation that although Ace is who he is and has been dubbed by many as being ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’, he still felt that he needed to put on an act to try and convince someone that he had gone insane.
Anyway, Ace creates a diversion and whilst the doctor is occupied elsewhere, Ace slips into the storage room to find Ray Finkle’s belongings. He finds an old newspaper which reports the end to a search for a missing hiker, Lois Einhorn. Back in his apartment, Ace realises that Einhorn is actually Finkle.
Whilst watching Ace’s reaction to the notion that he’s kissed a man by vomiting, squirting toothpaste into his mouth, pumping his mouth with a plunger, vomiting some more and burning his clothes before showering and crying, it’s no surprise to me that some people found it offensive, even back in 1994 and yet the film became overwhelmingly successful despite the controversy.
The revelation of Einhorn’s true identity leads to Dan Marino being kidnapped and held with Snowflake but Ace comes to their rescue. Melissa and Emilio realise that Ace could be in trouble and follow. Ace reveals Einhorn’s identity, proving that Einhorn killed Melissa’s boss, Roger Podacter (Troy Evans) and removes Finkle’s ring with the missing stone.
The last scene shows Ace and Melissa delivering Dan Marino and Snowflake to the Superbowl for the second half of the game and Ace is thanked for his efforts… whilst beating up the Eagle’s mascot.
‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ had a budget of $15 Million and took in a substantial $107.2 Million.
21 months after the release of ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’, a sequel was released entitled, ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’ and to me, it wasn’t as good. It felt more like a sequence of set pieces to give the level of insanity that the audience expected rather than the first film which had a consistent narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I still laughed but it lacked the same ‘wow factor’ that the first one did.
Although the property is prime bait for sequels since each film could have Ace investigating a new animal related case, I could argue that ‘Ace Ventura’ didn’t really need a sequel. We as the audience got to know all there is about the character and it didn’t seem to me that Ace would be the type of character who would change and grow and give any decent ground for any more instalments. Any sequel would just be going through the same motions and that’s exactly what ‘When Nature Calls’ did.
Although the sequel had twice the budget and brought in twice the box office revenue, the critics and the audience weren’t as accepting as they were for the first. It’s said that the reaction to ‘When Nature Calls’ is what turned Jim Carrey off of doing sequels. In fact, ‘Ace Ventura’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ are the only two properties that Carrey has ever done sequels for.
With the tremendous box office results from the first film, ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ sold 4.2 Million copies in its first three weeks on home video.
So there you have it, a film by two writers and a director who were unknown to Hollywood and a young but relatively unknown TV comedian who all thought would all though would end their careers, ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ became a hit and could arguably have been the role that secured Jim Carrey’s place in Hollywood and as a comedy legend.
This was February of 1994. July brought Carrey’s second hit of the year… and it was gonna be smokin’!
By the way, have you seen my book? It’s really good and written by me.