Built as a slapstick vehicle for Jim Carrey, “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” may hit a few bumps when it veers outside the lanes of its core audience of under-20 s and aficionados of the “In Living Color” star. While clearly following a path carved by anarchic clowns such as Jerry Lewis and Peter Sellers, “Ace” doesn’t display the comic pedigree needed for the rubber-faced-and-limbed comedian to collar breakthrough dollars. That said, dumb good times still wield a strong lure for the Saturday night date crowd.
Directed with vigor if not spades of style or polish by vet TV thesp-director Tom Shadyac in his feature debut, “Ace” spoofs the detective genre by positing Carrey as a goofball private gumshoe whose specialty is finding missing pets.
Unlike famous bumbling sleuths such as Inspector Clouseau and Lt. Frank Drebin, there’s no consistency to the “Ace” character, and the whole movie shifts in tone from social satire to sophomoric pranks and traditional copshow plotting as Ventura sets out to solve the mysterious kidnapping of the Miami Dolphins’ lovable dolphin mascot, Snowflake.
Along the trail he befriends and beds the Dolphins’ beautiful flak (Courteney Cox), perplexes top cop Einhorn (Sean Young) who’s trying to break the case, and stumbles on to a nefarious revenge plot that involves Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and a mythical Super Bowl misplay of the past.
“Ace” is briskly paced and graced with Carrey’s ceaseless energy and peculiar talents, such as the ability to act out a football play in slow motion and rewind.
Pic scores points for its peppy, unpretentious quest to wrest laughs out of less than sparkling material. Best gags involve Ventura’s menagerie-packed apartment and animal-like qualities, including high-revved senses of taste, smell and sexual appetite.
Unfortunately, there are too few to fill out the film’s 90-plus minutes.
Supporting players Cox, Warhol alumnus Udo Kier as mysterious billionaire Camp and rapper Tone Loc as a sympathetic cop have little to do but watch Carrey riff, while Young grimaces and growls as she is subjected to an endless barrage of indignities.
Her Einhorn is the kind of role that makes it even clearer why she fought so hard for a shot at Catwoman.
Film sputters and eventually slows to a trot due to the script’s inability to give Carrey anything more than a free rein to mug and strut, and a third-act payoff that takes the film’s generally inoffensive tastelessness into a particularly brutal and unpleasant stew of homophobia and misogyny. This misstep , after a midplot turn involving a key character’s bloody (and confusing) murder , throws the good-natured high jinks of Carrey off course.
Seemingly clueless as to how best to utilize Carrey, or make humorous hay out of its pet-loving shamus’ central character, “Ventura” fails to place either Carrey or “Ace” in the winner’s circle of memorable screen crazies.