Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

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(Reviewed in 2001.)

Sequels are rarely good, and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” is a reminder that it’s even harder to do a good sequel when the original didn’t have much to it in the first place.

“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” benefitted from Jim Carrey’s rubber-faced mannerisms and animated delivery. The question of how long such one-dimensional antics can be entertaining is answered in the sequel, which seems so slight, forgettable and uninspired that one is apt to forget Ace Ventura was once a truly amusing character.

This time around, Ace is called in to find the religious mascot of a particular African tribe. The idol’s disappearance has threatened to cause a war between two rival tribes, and some wealthy businessmen have an interest in preserving peace. Some of them, it would seem, also have an interest in promoting war.

Steve Oedekerk both wrote and directed the film, and his directorial style suggests he lacks confidence in his writing. Many lines, as written, are quite clever and funny. They are ruined, though, by Carrey’s over-delivery. It’s as if Oedekerk feared the words he wrote wouldn’t get laughs on their own, so as a last-ditch effort, he had Carrey go over-the-top with everything.

Why merely SAY a line when you can shout it, sing it or pantomime it? Why convey an emotion through delivery or facial expressions when you can dance around foolishly? Why practice subtlety and comedic timing when you can smack people in the head with a sledgehammer?

Why, indeed. Though the film grossed more than $100 million in the United States, no further sequels ever appeared. Maybe this was due to Carrey’s emerging status as a superstar who wanted to do other, bigger things. But I’d like to pretend it’s because everyone involved felt a secret shame at producing such an inferior, worthless film that they chose never to speak of it again.

Please allow me to continue with this delusion, as it makes me happy.

D (1 hr., 30 min.; PG-13, crude humor, some profanity.)

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