Comedy Oddities: Ace Ventura – When Nature Calls

ace ventura nature indexThe first Ace Venture film was a smash hit and launched the career of Jim Carrey, and for the first seventy minutes it’s a largely entertaining film with some great gags, Carrey is over the top but not to the point where it’s difficult to like the character, and there’s some strong support from Courtney Cox and Tone Loc. But then you get to the ending, which parodies the Oscar winning The Crying Game as a character is discovered to be transgender, and Carrey’s reaction is hateful stuff, deeply offensive and so unpleasant it ruined the whole movie for me. The actor has claimed we’re supposed to be laughing at Ventura’s homophobia and the over the top response, but it sure doesn’t look like that to me.

Still, I had hoped they might have learnt their lesson when it came to the sequel but if anything it’s a far, far worse movie than the first, and it’s easy to see why their isn’t an Ace Ventura trilogy. Carrey apparently only made the movie as he was contractually obliged but that doesn’t explain just how weak the film is, Ventura crosses over the line from eccentric but likeable to incredibly irritating catchphrase vomiting twat, and this time around it’s hard to understand why anyone puts up with his nonsense.

Relocating the action to Africa there’s a convoluted plot where Ace has track down a great white bat who has gone missing, the bat being a sacred animal that is due to be part of a wedding that will see two tribes put aside their violent differences and finally be peaceful. Carrey has commented in interviews that he’s surprised more fuss isn’t made about the portrayal of the tribes given how lazy and stereotypical the characters are, but at least unlike in the first movie they don’t set out to offend and this is just misguided rather than abhorrent.

Most of the film sees Ventura trying to find the bat, and it wastes obvious villain Simon Callow who is introduced early on but then forgotten about until the climax. The rest of the time it’s all about placing Ace in a number of daft or gross out scenes, there is one very funny moment which sees him emerge out of a fake rhinoceros which is Carrey showing off just how good he is at physical comedy, but it only makes you wish the film was more inventive and bizarre as it’s a rare moment which will make you laugh. Otherwise he’s dicking about and being a twat, flirting with one of the women but then refusing to sleep with her, choosing to masturbate instead because that’s the level of comedy you’ll find here.

It does up its game for the finale, Simon Callow finally gets the chance to chew some scenery and there’s a big action scene which is fairly entertaining, though they end it on a poor note as Simon Callow is raped by a gorilla, It’s almost as if they decided they wanted to annoy people or just couldn’t be arsed to come up with anything funny and went for a shitty rape gag, as that was supposedly funny back then.

Sophie Okonedo is given some amusing lines at least and makes for an appealing potential love interest, and Ian McNeice as Ace’s sidekick is decent enough and both stop this falling in to the category of worst films ever made. But when you find yourself wishing that they were on screen instead of the lead character than you’ve got an example of a badly misjudged film that fails to understand what worked in the original movie, instead plumping for annoying and predictable punchlines far too often.

★3/4

Alex Finch.
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