Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Posted: February 1, 2015 in Movie Review
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Ace Ventura (1994)

Director: Tom Shadyac

Starring: Jim Carrey, Sean Young, Courteney Cox, Tone Loc, Dan Marino

Most of us will never forget the first time we saw Jim Carrey. For many, it was when he was a cast member on TV’s “In Living Colour.” I never really watched that show, and I didn’t catch his early movie roles until much later, so my first glimpse of THE funny man of the 1990’s… and of the year 1994, in particular… was in a TV ad for the movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” It’s been too long to remember exact details of why this 30-second ad so easily caught my attention. I was 11 or 12 at the time… it could have been anything. What I do remember is that Carrey was acting crazy enough that I needed to see what the rest of the movie was like. That, in a nutshell, was Jim Carrey in 1994. As Ace Ventura, Carrey would combine two of my favorite things: absurd comedy and the Super Bowl.

Two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday, someone has kidnapped Snowflake, a Bottlenose Dolphin which serves as the mascot for the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise. Chief Publicist Melissa Robinson (Courteney Cox) and Head of Operations Roger Podacter are put in charge of finding the dolphin in time for the game. Word has it that an expert on such matters happens to reside in the Miami area, and so Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is put on the job. Ace finds his first clue in the form of a rare triangular-cut orange amber stone, later determined to have come from an ’84 AFC Championship ring. Following this clue, Ace comically tracks down all the members of the 1984 Miami Dolphins team to check and see if their ring is missing a stone. Crossing all the names off of his list, and his theory apparently shot, Ace is frustrated.

Soon, Roger Podacter is found dead, believed to have jumped to his death from his apartment balcony. While Lt. Einhorn (Sean Young) holds firm on her “obvious suicide” theory, Ace seems to prove her wrong on two fronts: 1) The spot of blood on the railing and 2) the fact that the sliding door that leads to the balcony, which was closed when the police first arrived, comes equipped with sound-proof glass. This means that any screams that witnesses would have heard could have only come from inside the apartment. With this new added wrinkle to the Snowflake kidnapping case, Ace and Melissa head back over to her place to investigate how the two could be linked. There, Ace notices on the wall a different 1984 Miami Dolphins team photo from the one he’d been working with. This one includes kicker Ray Finkle, famous for missing the key field goal kick at the end of Super Bowl XVII.

Armed with this new information, Ace begins to investigate Finkle, which includes stops at Finkle’s parents’ home and at Shady Acres Mental Hospital in Tampa, where Finkle wound up after being let go from the Dolphins. It seems that in the years since, Finkle became obsessed, believing that the missed field goal was not his fault, but that of quarterback Dan Marino, who was the holder for the kick on that particular play. From Finkle’s journal to his arts & crafts, it seems clear that there is just one thing on his mind, and that’s the humiliation and death of his former teammate. Also included in the box of Finkle’s belongings from the hospital is a newspaper clipping, one detailing the report of a missing hiker. The significance of said clipping is found in the name of the missing hiker: Lois Einhorn, now the Lieutenant of Miami PD! For Ace, the key to unraveling the Finkle/Snowflake/Podacter/Marino mystery lies in figuring out how Einhorn and Finkle are connected, or if they are perhaps in cahoots. Only then will he know where Snowflake, as well as the recently captured Dan Marino, are being kept, and all of this as the Miami Dolphins are gearing up for their big Super Bowl match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now, I’m well aware that sports movies generally exist over on some counter-Earth where historical events happen a little differently than we remember. I don’t care that there’s no such person as Ray Finkle, or that the ’84 AFC Champion Miami Dolphins actually lost the January 1985 edition of the Super Bowl to the NFC’s San Francisco 49ers by substantially more than just one point. That’s fine, because it’s more dramatic the way it worked out in the movie. What bothers me about it is that the game is referred to as Super Bowl XVII, when in actuality it was Super Bowl XIX. Can’t we at least get right the number of years in which the Super Bowl has been annually held? Strangely enough the Dolphins DID play in the real Super Bowl XVII, but that was in January of 1983 against the Washington Redskins. The Dolphins lost that one, too.

“Ace Ventua: Pet Detective” is an extremely funny, highly quotable comedy. However, like many of its kind, “Ace  Ventura” is not the sort of movie you want to watch often enough that the laughter subsides. Once that happens, you’re watching merely for the plot, and that’s not a good idea. The story of “Ace Ventura” is as silly and unbelievable as it gets. It’s because of Jim Carrey that we are watching, and that IS a good idea, because “Ace Ventura” represents Carrey in top form. It’s not as though this was Courteney Cox’s first foray, either. She’d been around long enough to have played Michael J. Fox’s girlfriend on TV’s “Family Ties,” as well as feature in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video. But it was with “Ace Ventura” that Cox’s career got the boost it had needed, because she would follow this up with a ten-year stint as Monica Geller on NBC’s hit sitcom “Friends.” The first of many to see their careers explode into the stratosphere as a direct result of starring in a Jim Carrey comedy.

A sequel followed a year later. Whether because of the switch from Miami to the African jungle, or because the jokes don’t feel fresh anymore, I just don’t dig “When Nature Calls” at all. In fact, the less I say about it, the better. “Pet Detective,” provided you watch it sparingly, can be just as entertaining now as it was twenty years ago. Especially enjoyable are the sequences during which Ace goes to great lengths to get members of the ’84 squad to show him their rings. I also enjoy his personal relationships, be it the budding romance between him and Melissa, his antagonistic relations with the Miami police, or his playful torment of his one friend on the force, Emilio (Tone Loc). Despite its imperfections, “Ace Ventura” has consistently been my favorite of Jim Carrey’s screwball comedies… and that’s not just me talking out of my ass. I leave that to the master.


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