Mask, The (1994): Charls Russell’s Comedy, Starring Jim Carrey

New Line’s “The Mask” should probably surpass the magic mark of $10 million at the box-office, and the film’s star Jim Carrey will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Silly, sketchy, loud, and thinner than air, The Mask is Carrey’s follow-up to his unanticipated smash hit, Ace Venture: Pet Detective, released earlier in the spring. That movie catapulted Carrey to national celebrity and mega-bucks; he’s reportedly getting paid $7 million for his new movie.

Though clearly talented and already touted as a major comic discovery, it may be too early to describe Carrey as the new Jerry Lewis, as some critics have.

In “The Mask,” Carrey plays a classic role: a mild-mannered bank clerk named Stanley Ipkiss. You know the type: a good-hearted schlemiel, who pushes paper at the bank, too shy to speak to a girl, or do anything else right. Things change radically, when one night he comes across a mysterious ancient mask, which transforms him into a dynamo when he wears it.

The mask releases all of Stanley’s inhibitions, giving him supernatural powers and unrestrained libido. The apparatus, which seems simple, makes the actor look like a green-headed trickster with abundant energy and fantastic flair. When Carrey dances, he’s like a demon; from afar, he looks like liquid fire. (At the press screening, audiences were cheering and applauding when Carrey did his big disco number, dressed in a bright yellow suit).

The humor in “The Mask” is more whimsical than in “Ace Ventura,” and its jokes seem less inspired by TV’s sitcoms. Director Charles Russell must have realized that Mike Werb’s script is slender and underdeveloped, for he gives Carrey complete freedom in displaying his shtick. Indeed, the movie’s real stars are the amazing special effects, the bulging eyes, popping tongues fast prancing, etc.

This summer movie season seems to be particularly good for animals, with the upcoming “Andre the Seal,” and the already-released “Monkey Trouble,” “Lassie,” “Black Beauty,” and “The Lion King.” Boating its own treasure, “The Mask” has a cute, devoted dog (a Jack Russell Terrier) named Milo able to perform all kinds of heroics.

As noted, there’s really no screenplay to speak of, and the secondary characters (including a villain who’s deliciously played by Peter Greene) don’t matter at all. Russell is shrewd enough to understand that his movie’s appeal is not based on its story, but on its charismatic star and the technical extravaganza that surrounds him.

Intermittently enjoyable, the comic-book-like “Mask” is a good vehicle for the gifts and skills of Jim Carrey. My hope is that now that he’s proved he’s a bankable star, his talents will be used in better movies.