Back in 1994, Jim Carrey took Hollywood by storm with three box-office hits that put the actor on the map forever. One of those movies was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, a whodunit spoof with Carrey playing an anarchic pet detective who finds himself being forced into tackling a murder case.
The film was a big success and spawned a sequel plus an animated series. This was arguably mostly thanks to Jim Carrey's excellent physical comedy in the film (speaking through his butt and such) and the Ace Ventura character himself. The plot involves a dolphin called Snowflake, the mascot for NFL team The Miami Dolphins, being kidnapped just before The Super Bowl. The aforementioned pet detective is called in to take on the case before a murder is committed that turns out to be very much connected to the dolphin case. It becomes up to Ace Ventura to not only track down the missing animal but step on the police's toes in order to solve the killing.
Along the way, he stakes out each and every player from the NFL team, the family of a suspect, a suspicious billionaire played by Udo Kier, goes undercover in a mental institution and other shenanigans. Sean Young plays the police lieutenant who clashes with Ace Ventura throughout the movie and she is a very good sport considering what she's asked to do by the end of the film. Now, the elephant in the room here is, of course, how the movie hasn't dated particularly well when it comes to dealing with a story that involves mental illness and a character changing their gender. Indeed, the film is decidedly insensitive about these things, playing everything for laughs, which is to be expected, but it's also not handled in a particularly funny way. Ultimately, the film's climax comes off as awkward and a bit too homophobic for its own good.
In fact, there was always a tonal mismatch in this film and re-watching it really made it stand out to me. Ace Ventura is a fun character and the childish humor, in his hands, is rather charming but the film itself seems confused whether it wants to be a dark serial killer movie or a family-friendly comedy. In the end, it attempts both at the same time and the vibe is overall a bit too mean-spirited to be a laugh riot the whole way through. There are some highlights, however: the opening home delivery sequence is just perfect, the Mission: Impossible parody is a lot of fun, Carrey's Star Trek impressions, his tutu-wearing hospital antics, brutal encounter with a shark - it's good stuff. Ace Ventura's obnoxious behavior is refreshingly out there and the supporting cast is genuinely good so there's plenty to enjoy here.
The character of Ace Ventura is much better handled in the more cartoonish sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, which has a consistent tone throughout the film and, thankfully, keeps things light but, most importantly, is a lot funnier. There are laughs here, no doubt about it, and Jim Carrey alone makes it a film worth watching but the vision here is frankly unclear and a little off.
Amusing yet uneven.