I was ten years old when The Mask was released, and it quickly became my favourite film: to the point where I had a sizable collection of trading cards from the movie. It’s not hard to see why: there’s cartoonish excess – from the humour and bright palette to Jim Carrey’s broad performance (not a complaint: his no-holds-barred rubber-faced performance is exactly what the film needs) – but there’s also a dark undercurrent, with grim mobsters, violence and a noir-ish femme fatale (Cameron Diaz, making her memorable debut). There’s some deep shadows behind this mask, and they hooked the imagination of my younger self, on the boundary between Saturday morning cartoons and something more mature.
The film holds up surprisingly well. It uses a lot of visual effects, but unlike many films of this early-CGI era, it’s not making any attempt to appear realistic, which aged a lot of the blockbuster films of the mid-‘90s. Sure, the plot may be paper-thin, and the jokes range from legitimately funny to pretty clichéd, but it’s still an awful lot of fun, and it’s not hard to see why it served as a gateway drug to my love of film noir at the same time.