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The Mask on Blu-ray
September 3, 2010

You remember this movie, right? Jim Carrey plays a nice-guy nebbish who gets the girl and beats the gangster when he finds a mystical mask that turns him into a cartoon character. It’s a dazzling showcase of Carrey’s abilities with physical comedy as well as his acting skills.

We’ve been going a little crazy acquiring Blu-rays since we acquiesced to the format, but I think we picked the right time, with more deals being available now. It’s fun to consider what favorites you really want to see again, especially those with good extras or on sale at Amazon. This disc, we bought as part of the Warner Blu-ray trade-in program (which, by the way, was amazing — although it says allow 4-5 weeks, we got our upgraded discs in a week and a half!) for two reasons: the visuals seemed like they’d benefit from the new format, and our DVD copy was so old that the back cover copy was basically explaining to the audience what a DVD was.

The Mask cover
The Mask
Buy this DVD

I hadn’t realized, back in the day, that this was based on a comic, although certainly it wears its animated influences proudly. I don’t think I’m part of the original audience for the print version, anyway, given the distinctions the creators point out between the comic and movie. That happens in “Return to Edge City”, an almost half-hour behind-the-scenes feature.

I’d also never before realized that the movie was made by New Line (home of the very successful Nightmare on Elm Street series) because, based on the source material, it was intended to be a horror/revenge movie with some funny. As they describe the comic, it sounds like The Spectre with more of a sense of humor, but plenty of gore and killings. During the film’s production, they changed direction to make it more influenced by Tex Avery (who features in another 15-minute extra comparing the special effects to his cartoons).

The Mask itself is like Dr. Jekyll’s potion — it brings out the deepest side of your personality. Because Stanley is a good guy, his prankster has an unrestricted ability to rampage but with a sense of fun. And I love that they have musical numbers!

The film and its new direction was written for Jim Carrey before he was well-known (before Ace Ventura, Pet Detective), which resulted in a great match of actor and character. He could act sweet and soft-spoken for the romantic comedy while still providing the physicality for the outrageous gags. He has such skill in his rubber-faced exaggeration that he worked very well with the ridiculous effects, giving the animators the ability to meet him halfway. Made in 1994, the effects are early computer-generated work by ILM, the best in the business. (Unfortunately, the only scenes of Carrey in the special features seem to be promotional stuff taken at the time of filming.)

The low expectations for the movie — since it was being made with a TV actor and a horror director — meant they had to choose an unknown for their leading lady, because most names turned them down. This is Cameron Diaz’s first movie, accompanied by the second-hardest-working push-up bra in Hollywood (after Julia Roberts’ in Erin Brockovich). Diaz gets her own featurette, “Introducing Cameron Diaz”, about her discovery, which is a bit star-struck and repetitive.

There’s also a short bit on training dogs for movies and two commentaries, one with just director Chuck Russell, the other with the director, writer, producers, and other staffers. That second one is reportedly much better than the first, although we haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet. Overall, this was a great excuse to revisit an enjoyable superhero comedy.

3 Responses  
JeffG writes:  

Johanna – how is the picture quality on this version? I own the DVD (no trade in offers in Canada I’m afraid, not even for those of us that actually bought HD-DVD titles), and my only real complaint with it is that it was from the bleeding edge of DVD and there’s a lot of macroblocking (smoke sequences, water etc) and other artifacts. I have to say I usually only notice this at the start of the movie as I’m watching the gags (Squeeze Me Gently!) and having too much fun once it gets rolling.

 
Johanna writes:  

I’m afraid I’m not a very good judge of those things, and when I rewatched, I was mostly listening to the commentary instead of viewing the picture. You may find this more technical review helpful in that area.

 
JeffG writes:  

Thanks for the pointer – sounds like its a pretty big upgrade in quality, I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one now.

 
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