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Dustin Putman

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Son of the Mask (2005)
2 Stars

Directed by Lawrence Guterman
Cast: Jamie Kennedy, Alan Cumming, Traylor Howard, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Falconer, Liam Falconer, Kal Penn, Steven Wright, Ben Stein, Magda Szubanski, Ryan Johnson, Peter Flett
2005 – 86 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (for action, crude and suggestive humor, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 12, 2005.

Arriving almost eleven years after 1994's "The Mask," "Son of the Mask" is an unneeded and, without original star Jim Carrey in sight, pretty much unwanted sequel. As such, it is more inoffensively innocuous than most viewers will likely be expecting. I was not a fan of "The Mask," a charmless box-office hit about a green-faced, magically enhanced version of Ace Ventura. Notable only for being Cameron Diaz's screen debut, "The Mask" seems to have mostly been forgotten about in the ensuing decade. Colorfully directed by Lawrence Guterman (2001's "Cats & Dogs"), "Son of the Mask" features an actual plot this time, as trivial as it may be, and has been wisely targeted more directly at children in the single-digits. As such, kids will certainly be entertained for 86 minutes. Adults should just thank their lucky stars that the experience is a bearable one.

On the fringes of bustling metropolis Edge City lives Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy), a struggling cartoonist whose wife, Tonya (Traylor Howard), desperately wants to start a family. Not sure that he wants a baby, Tim's luck turns upside-down after his dog, Otis, discovers an ancient wooden mask out by the creek. Slipping the mask on before a company Halloween party, Tim is suddenly transformed into a manic, green-faced, super-powered comedian who delights his boss (Steven Wright), receives a promotion, and keeps it on just long enough to conceive a child with Tonya. When the baby is born, Tim gradually comes to realize he has inadvertently passed on the powers of the mask to little Alvey (twins Liam and Ryan Falconer). Learning that a child has been born with this gift, the maniacal God, Loki (Alan Cumming), maker of the mask, sets out in hot pursuit to retrieve his lost creation and return it to his mystical father in the sky, Odin (Bob Hoskins).

"Son of the Mask" is a fast and furious special effects-laden fantasy so frantically paced and eager to please its intended kiddie demographic that even grown-ups will be forced to admit it achieves this goal. There is predictably juvenile potty humor sprinkled throughout, including a goofy scene featuring more urine than possibly any movie in history, but the film keeps an airy tone that is harmless. There are even a few actual laughs to be had, something its predecessor cannot attest to, including an off-the-wall, over-the-top war between mischievous baby Alvey and mask-wearing dog Otis. When Tim becomes alarmed at seeing his toddler performing a full-out song-and-dance routine, he seeks the help of his neighbor, Betty (Magda Szubanski). "All children sing to themselves," Betty cluelessly reassures him. "But Vaudeville?!" Tim replies with exasperation. Also of note is the clever tribute to the wonderful family feature, "The Adventures of Milo and Otis." In "Son of the Mask," Tim's dog's name is Otis. In "The Mask," Jim Carrey's dog's name was Milo.

What Jamie Kennedy (2003's "Malibu's Most Wanted"), as Tim Avery, lacks in advanced thespian skills he makes up for in joyful screen presence. When Tim is wearing the mask, which is mercifully not much, Kennedy's obvious impersonation of Jim Carrey is a lackluster, borderline-embarrassing one. As the character he is playing, though, Kennedy is a delight who makes his growing adult responsibilities and embracing of his child seem plausible and sweet.

As villain Loki, who isn't so much a bad guy as an irresponsible one, Alan Cumming (2003's "X2") is memorable for the disguises he takes on, including that of a pigtailed girl scout. Cumming and Bob Hoskins (2004's "Beyond the Sea"), as Loki's father, Odin, are ultimately so far above this material that you can almost detect the humiliation behind their eyes. As Tim's wife, Tonya, Traylor Howard (2000's "Me, Myself & Irene") shares an easy chemistry with Kennedy that makes one long for a more adult-oriented screen romance between the two. Finally, twins Liam and Ryan Falconer are cute as a button as son Alvey, although it is difficult to detect how much of it is really them and how much is the amazingly lifelike effects work of Industrial Light & Magic.

Kids will eat up what "Son of the Mask" has to offer—a throwaway piffle of non-stop action, CGI, and broad comedy. There is, indeed, a place for this sort of inconsequential humor, and yet one has to wonder why the same energy couldn't have been put to use in a story worth telling. The running time is short and to the point—another positive—but the material is so very thin that the fun drains out of it long before the annoyingly overboard climax is over. As a means of getting your own children out of your hair for an hour and a half, "Son of the Mask" will do the trick. For everyone else, there is no reason to make a trip to the theater for what amounts to a loud and frenzied day at Chuck E. Cheese's.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman