Many will recall The Mask, which was released in 1994 to the tune of a $120 million total box office. It solidified Jim Carrey as a comedic star and launched the career of Cameron Diaz. While the film had an open ending of sorts, I think after about 1997 most had figured that New Line was going to let the film and/or series rest in peace with a nice profit.
It is now 2005, and Son of the Mask is finding its way to theaters. New Line has spent an estimated $100 million on this film, which contains no Jim Carrey, no Cameron Diaz, and, come to think of it, no A-list stars at all. What was all this money spent on? Special effects of course, and that’s about all this clunker has going for it.
The film opens with a very well-done sequence in a museum (with none other than Ben Stein as the tour guide) that gives some back story to the origins of the mask. Loki (Cumming), God of Mischief, is the rightful owner of the mask. His father, the great Odin (Hoskins, completely embarassing himself here), is ashamed of him because he is not of the soaring power of his other siblings. Odin sets Loki on a mission to find the mask.
Tim Avery (Kennedy) is an aspiring cartoonist who has been short on ideas of late. He lives in a nice home with his wife, Tonya (Howard), a successful businesswoman. Tonya truly wants them to have a child, but Tim is resistant because he feels he is not successful enough to be a dad. One day the couple’s dog, Otis, finds the mask floating down a creek in their backyard. Tim promptly finds the mask, tries it on, and becomes a dead ringer for Gary Busey. He tears up a company Halloween party that night with an extended dance routine, then comes home and…well, Tonya finds herself pregnant the next day.
It’s not too long before little Alvey (Falconer) is born. Since he was conceived while Tim was wearing the mask, he is now the son of the mask. Hence, he has all of the powers of Loki, who spends most of the film falling upon replicas of the mask. Chaos ensues.
Chaos seems to be what Son of the Mask is all about, as no more than thirty seconds passes at a time without some kind of bizarre special effect. I may as well start out with the good because the special effects really are quite astounding. Alvey, our mask-possessed toddler, seamlessly morphs into a hell raiser well beyond his years. While I personally find “mature” babies to be quite creepy, the film accomplishes the effect tenfold. So in love with the effects is the film that most of the time it comes across as if it is simply just flaunting technology. The original The Mask used special effects (and they were great back in 1994, too) to punctuate an entertaining, cartoony story. This new incarnation uses a one-joke narrative to hold together a never-ending blitz of over-the-top special effects.
WB star Jamie Kennedy has been called upon to fill the shoes of Jim Carrey. Bluntly, this isn’t even a close call, but I don’t think as much of it is Kennedy’s fault as most people will assume. He really isn’t given much to do other than look worried and make strange facial expressions. His character is so one-note and boring that it’s hard to even care him. He’s a cartoonist, he has a baby, and he is in possession of the mask. On with the special effects!
Alan Cumming fares better as Loki, a prankster who would be nothing without special effects. His scenes are the best, but they quickly become repetitive and joke-free as the same scenario (Loki goes to extremes to find the mask, only to discover it is a replica) is laid upon us several times. Cumming seems to really be the only one in on the joke here, and I give him credit for at least looking like he’s having fun.
Traylor Howard is completely wasted as Tim’s wife, and is suitably over-the-top when she is in the film (she disappears on a business trip for the better part of the movie). Bob Hoskins, heavily made up to look like a medieval lord, is much better than this and he knows it.
Screenwriter Lance Khazei, who worked predominantly in the TV world prior to this film, fails to give us characters or a story to care about. He scripts a good placeholder for special effects, but when we reach the film’s climax, where we are sermoned about family values, it just doesn’t sit well. Director Lawrence Guterman, who last worked on Cats and Dogs in 2001, gives us unnecessarily hyper camera work and is essentially catering to the ADD generation with this style of film making. None of the sequences take time to develop and buildup; they’re just thrown at us mindlessly.
Son of the Mask is probably what most people are already assuming it is. The film is a truly unnecessary sequel to a film that stood well enough on its own. I would say that it’s merely an attempt by New Line to snake some more money from an unassuming public, but with a $100 million budget, this is shaping up to be the biggest bomb of the new year.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 86 Minutes
Rating: PG for action, crude and suggestive humor and language.
Theatrical Release: February 18, 2005
Directed by: Lawrence Guterman
Written by: Lance Khazei
Cast: Jamie Kennedy, Alan Cumming, Ryan Falconer, Bob Hoskins, Traylor Howard, Ben Stein