You can’t help but wonder: At approximately what point during the filming of Son of the Mask did the cast and crew halt what they were doing, heave a heavy sigh, and know — just know — that what they were working on was pure, utter nonsense that they were contractually doomed to see through?
Certainly Jamie Kennedy, likely indulging visions of this movie as his Jim Carrey-like breakthrough, must have sensed a reeking quality, particularly during the shooting of a scene in which, as new father and aspiring animator Tim Avery, he changes his newborn’s diaper and gets hosed by a bright yellow power-stream.
That baby — born to Tim and Tonya (Traylor Howard) while Tim was under the influence of the Mask of Loki, Norse God of Mischief and Trickery — is essentially a flesh-and-blood cartoon, able to accomplish godlike flights of fancy at whim. He’s a superbaby, a harbinger of extreme mischief. But if the Averys think their son is a little monster now, just wait ’til his teen years. He’ll turn his teachers into pets. Literally.
Son of the Mask, a sequel to the 1994 Jim Carrey hit, centers primarily on the baby — named Alvey — and the havoc the wee one creates in the Avery household. The Avery’s Jack Russell terrier, Otis, who unearthed the mask in the first place, is jealous of the attention bestowed upon Alvey. So he puts his cute little canine mug into the mask and becomes a bulgy-eyed, snarling, giggling CGI-version of himself — a terror terrier — embarking on a Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote style war with Alvey.
That’s not enough plot for this movie, oh no. We also get to witness the travails of Loki (Alan Cumming), who has been ordered by his father Odin (Bob Hoskins) to find the mask or forever be stripped of his godly powers. All these elements converge in a mangled climax that is notable only because it’s so loud it wakes us up.
Where the first Mask was an enjoyable kick, complete with seeping, dark satirical undertones, Son of the Mask is more of a swift kick in the family jewels. Directed by Lawrence Guterman, whose Cats & Dogs was a mild family diversion, Son of the Mask has been framed by producer New Line Pictures as fun family fare. But the film can’t strip itself of its dark undertones — the dog wants to kill the baby, after all, and that’s hardly wholesome — so it’s hard to say what kind of family the film is meant for. The Manson family, perhaps?
Son of the Mask, whose lurching, hacked-together plot offers little in the way of coherent entertainment, is value-free. Its moral, that sons and fathers should try to get along because, after all, family is family, is ripped from the first page of the Ye Olde Movie ClichÃ© Pamphlet.
I feel a little sorry for Kennedy, who dons the Mask makeup a few times and ends up looking like a watered down version of Jim Carrey’s green-faced, big-toothed goon. In Carrey’s case, you were never quite sure of your eyes. Was it a special effect? Makeup? Could someone really stretch their lips to that extent and fit choppers the size of horse-teeth into their mouth? (As we’ve since learned, Carrey can do just about anything with his flex-i-man flesh.) In Kennedy’s case, it’s just a bad makeup job. He looks as though he had his head dipped in vomit.
Cumming, who can generally be counted on to enliven almost any movie, fails miserably here, delivering less of a performance than an extended shenanigan. As for Hoskins — he’s under such heavy makeup, I didn’t even realize it was Hoskins until I read the credits.
Identical twins Ryan and Liam Falconer, who take turns playing Alvey, are little vessels of adorableness. They’ve got the kind of cherubic faces movie cameras love. But, since much of their screen time is CGI-enhanced, it’s impossible to judge their future as Hollywood toddlers. Maybe if someone is considering a revamp of Full House, the Falconers will have a career (move over, Mary Kate and Ashley). In the meantime, I’d advise Momma and Poppa Falconer to invest the money earned from this film wisely. And wisely, in this case, would not be in New Line Pictures.