Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy) is an aspiring cartoonist looking for his big break. When his dog discovers the green mask of the god Loki in a nearby creek, Tim inadvertently takes the mask and its powers of mischievousness for a ride, ending the night in bed with his wife, Tonya (Traylor Howard). Nine months later, Tonya gives birth to Alvey, a bouncing baby boy who holds the powers of the mask inside of him. When Loki (Alan Cumming) comes down from the heavens to find his missing mask, he, along with Tim, discovers that Alvey has a lot more up his sleeve than simply cooing and burping.
In 2003, a cash-hungry New Line Cinema decided to make a sequel to the semi-classic 1994 comedy "Dumb and Dumber." Unable to convince Jim Carrey to return for the follow-up, the studio went ahead and recast the film with new actors, turned the story into a prequel, and preceded to make "Dumb and Dumberer," one of the worst films of the year. One would think New Line would have learned its lesson on Carrey-less sequels. Apparently not, because here comes "Son of the Mask" (IMDb listing).
"The Mask," a 1994 sleeper smash, not only solidified Carrey as a genuine box-office draw, but it also gave a new generation of computer effects a healthy workout. The Chuck Russell-directed film attempted to introduce a Tex Avery world of cartoon mayhem with live-action limitations. While I'm not an overwhelming fan of "The Mask," I can appreciate its wild, anarchic style, and Carrey's deliriously inspired, utterly unhinged performance. The man became a living cartoon.
Who better to replace Carrey for this 11-year-delayed sequel than Jamie Kennedy. Jamie who? Well, New Line seems to believe that the mild star of the WB's "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" and the comedy surprise "Malibu's Most Wanted" is the man to fill Carrey's mighty green mask. How wrong they are. While Kennedy isn't a ghastly cinema presence, his comedy tends to run on a single AAA battery, which is the opposite of what the Jolt-and-pixie-stick-fueled "Son" is striving for. With his baby's-breath speaking voice and confused appearance, Kennedy is no match for the spirited role, leaving scenes where he throws on the mask (leading to musical numbers and assorted mayhem) flaccid and unfunny. The role needs an actor who will own the frame with his confidence; all Kennedy can do is flail around, pitifully attempt to mimic Carrey's mask voice, and trust that the computers will take care of the rest.
Behind that CG is director Lawrence Guterman, helmer of the intolerable "Cats & Dogs." Guterman is a special effects technician, so handing him the reigns to "Son" is no real surprise. The film plays to Guterman's strength: pitching the comedy at such a toxic and screeching level that it soon becomes white noise. Guterman can't figure out how to achieve a cartoon-like atmosphere the same way Russell did, so his choice of shots (either the camera is always moving or shoved directly into the actor's face) and comedy (Alan Cumming? Oh, come on) are very aggressive, forcing a fantastical atmosphere that doesn't come freely. The film includes long bits of animation to help sell the frenzied theatrics, which defeats the purpose of a "Mask" film. The computer images are appropriately silly, and most look very good, but what's the point when you have a filmmaker who doesn't know how to use them?
Strange becomes the tone of "Son," replacing the sex-and-slapfight merriment of the original film and its lustier tendencies (back when "Dear. Lord." preceded any mention of then-unknown Cameron Diaz), with a joke range that will only appeal to 5 year-olds and 35 year-old new parents. "Son" panders to this narrow demo relentlessly, either using diapers or what's in them for laughs. The infantilization of the central idea behind the franchise is a serious misstep, replacing the earlier film's bawdy vibe for one that resembles an acid-trip episode of "Yes, Dear." Jim Carrey would've never allowed that.
Filmfodder Grade: D-