What's next? THE MASK JR? Oh wait…
by Adam Miller
ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE JR. is one of those films that doesn’t deserve the amount of thought I'm about to give it. This review is an exercise in curiosity; a massaging of the mind after being subjected to artless imagery.
PET DETECTIVE JR. is about the son of the iconoclastic character that launched Jim Carrey’s career into super stardom. Ace Jr.’s dad (presumably Jim Carrey) is now out of the picture—we’re never told why—and Ace Jr. is being raised by his mom, played by Ann Cusack. Mom doesn’t like Ace Jr.’s affinity towards animals or his constant hero-worshipping of the father he never knew. Which begs the question: why did she name him Ace Jr?
Lest we forget, Carrey’s original Ace Ventura was something of a playboy. After one assignment he receives oral pleasure as reward and later he has crazy animal sex with Courtney Cox. There was also that whole sex-change operation thing crucial to the plot of the first film. The idea of Ace Sr. settling down to have a family in the first place makes little sense. Likewise the fact that Ace Jr. is played by a chubby Josh Flitter who clearly missed his father's ultra-svelte genes.
While we’re on the subject of contrasting old Ace to new, yes there are plenty groan inducing moments where characters try to imitate Jim Carrey’s original deliveries of lines like “Re-e-e-ally” and “Allllll righty then.” Flitter has his fair share of such moments, but the real prize goes to Ralph Waite (yeah, the dad from THE WALTONS) as Grandpa Ventura whose impression of Carrey’s deliveries amounts to coughing through the famous lines. Now that’s what I call a "hack" performance!
But it doesn’t take a lot of thought to say that PET DETECTIVE JR. doesn’t measure up with the original. What’s even weirder is the original content to be found in PET DETECTIVE JR. Much of the comedy is reduced to Josh Flitter bending over and making fart noises. We’ll call that par for a kids a comedy. But more disturbing still is the subtext to the main plot:
Ace Jr. wants desperately to fill his father’s shoes, but he’s an overweight, awkward kid. Kind of an outcast at school. Has problems with authority. And really isn’t that great a pet detective. In fact, for the beginning of the film he attempts to rescue lost pets for several pretty young girls (including the entire swim team) but fails repeatedly. At one point, the girls’ swim team tosses Ace Jr. into the pool. The tide turns, however, when Ace’s mom gives him a necklace with a KEY on it that UNLOCKS A CHEST which contains the original Ace’s costume and a scrapbook. Once Ace Jr. ACQUIRES HIS FATHER’S KEY he also acquires the original Ace’s bravado and swagger. Now Ace Jr. tosses the entire girls’ swim team into the pool! He takes shit from no one. In every encounter with male figures of authority (security guards, body guards, cops) Ace Jr.’s tactic is to RIP OFF THE AUTHORITY FIGURE’S TIE.
So the film is a phallic quest told in no uncertain, and uncertainly no provocative, terms. What’s bizarre to me is how mindlessly a film like this can be made to reinforce long-held notions about how boys should behave. How they should stand up for themselves against “girls” and act cool and tough in all situations. The original Ace’s bravura struck me as a reaction against the fact that his profession and love for animals was looked down upon by “real” police officers. It was a defense mechanism. For the young Ace, it’s a prize to be won, a secret to be unlocked, and ultimately a weapon to be wielded. Kind of a weird message to be sending to kids, right? Good thing very, very few kids will ever be watching this one.