Super 35 - 1.85:1
1.78:1 - 1.37:1
Screenplay by: Mike Webb
Directed by: Charles Russell
Starring: Jim Carrey, Peter Riegert, Peter Greene, Amy Yasbeck, Richard Jeni, Cameron Diaz, Max
Whoa...talk about an excellent adaptation of a incredibly fun and remarkably weird comic book! Dark Horse Comics' The Mask has been a favorite with comic book fans for years, and I know I was thrilled when I heard way back when that a movie version was in the works. None of us were quite sure how they could accomplish the multitude of special effects necessary to pull it off, or even how they could find someone strange enough to handle the title role. Well, as I'm sure you're all aware, they did pull it off, and director Charles Russell did a far better job than myself or any of my friends had possibly hoped for! The person they found to lead The Mask was none other than comedian Jim Carrey - with his special blend of outrageous rubber-faced expressions and bizarre body motions, Carrey was a natural for the role. But although Jim is talented, he's not so talented that he can change his entire body structure or pop his skull and eyeballs out of his head - that was left to the folks at ILM, whose CGI effects brought the Tex Avery-ish cartoon effects to life. The Mask is very funny, stylish, and has an incredible flair to it that you don't usually see in modern films.
Okay, okay, so you're one of the few folks left in the world who hasn't seen The Mask, and you don't have a clue what all the hoopla is about, right? Well, Carrey stars as Stanley Ipkiss, a bank clerk who's "a really nice guy." Unfortunately for Stanley, not only is he a really, really nice guy, but he's a complete loser as far as the women are concerned. All that turns around when Stanley finds a bizarre ancient mask...but it's no ordinary mask. Whoever wear this mask has their very innermost desires brought to life a hundred-fold. Before long, Stanley finds himself transformed into The Mask, a happy, hopping, suave, romantically-inclined and extremely uncontrollable mischievous green-face guy with a whole slew of wacky "super powers" (whew!). Since Stanley has already fallen for gangster moll Tina Carlisle (Cameron Diaz), The Mask pursues her relentlessly, which is okay by Tina. Unfortunately, some of Tina's gangster friends, especially boyfriend Dorian (Peter Greene), aren't too pleased with The Mask's activities, so Dorian makes it his personal mission to eliminate him. Yikes! Peter Riegert co-stars as Lt. Kellaway, Amy Yasbeck as snooty newspaper report Peggy Brandt, Richard Jeni as Stanley's friend Charlie, and Max as Milo the Dog (who does some amazing things in this film, and almost steals every scene away from Carrey).
Not only is The Mask a really good film, but it's a great DVD as well, and you should run down to your local store and buy a copy immediately for your collection (that's an order!). The Mask was released by New Line Home Video, and without a doubt it's probably the most impressive DVD I've seen thus far. First off, the DVD contains both a widescreen and standard version of the film, each one contained on its own side of the disc. Filmed in Super 35, The Mask was released theatrically with a matted 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The letterboxed version appears with an aspect ratio of around 1.78:1. As for the standard version, it is a "full-frame" version that features more picture information at the top and bottom of the frame, with slightly cropped sides. Although I prefer the letterboxed version since the composition is as the director's intended, the standard version is a more than suitable presentation for letterboxing foes (there is generally a bit too much headroom for my tastes). But whichever version you choose to watch, you can be assured that you are getting a perfect transfer - razor sharp, crystal clear, and with a color transfer that will have your tongue rolling on the floor. In an effort to enhance the film's comic book qualities, the cinematographer has lit every shot in a variety of color washes, from gorgeous golden hues to deep blues, and the transfer captures every nuance to perfection. So far, every New Line DVD transfer I've seen is excellent, and since New Line has every intention of continuing this trend, all I can say is that the future of DVD does look extremely promising indeed! I have to admit, though, that I was very worried the first time I watched the standard version...when I got to chapter 3, the entire picture locked up and dissolved into a mass of giant pixels. But have no fear, the problem was fixed easily enough - it turned out that the disc had this tiny, tiny speck on the surface. Once blown off, the disc played perfectly once again.
The DVD also contains three separate soundtracks: an English-language 6-channel Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a French 2-channel Dolby Surround stereo track, and a director's commentary running the entire length of the film. The English-language track is a fitting match for the picture transfer, having an energetic, pumped up mix - the music, the sound effects, and everything else is replicated in all its glory! The French-language track, on the other hand, although still very good, is a little tinny and echoes quite a bit throughout the entire dialogue track - even so, you should realize that foreign dubbed versions usually fall somewhat short of the original English-language mixes, and that you are given an accurate rendition of the French track. With regard to the director's commentary track, I've heard many director's commentaries over the years, but I have to say that Charles Russell's is one of the most informatiive and entertaining speeches I've had the pleasure to sit through. It's obvious from the start that Russell really, really enjoyed working on The Mask, and it shows in the energetic way he speaks. He discusses the ups and downs of making the film, talks about specific scenes and effects sequences as they appear on screens, and even gives us a hint that The Mask 2 might be coming along some day. I also liked the fact that he didn't pause and stay silent for minutes on end like some other commentaries I could mention. Russell's commentary is presented with the original film soundtrack muted in the background, and is in great shape. All three soundtracks can be switched around via the audio button on your remote, or through the menu options (the director's commentary is located separately from the language selections, in the "Extra Stuff" section).
For those of you wanting to practice learning another language, The Mask is accompanied by very readable English, French and Spanish subtitles, all of which handle the job with minimal paraphrasing. As with the audio, these three subtitle tracks can be switched using the menu options or the "subtitle" button. The Mask is also encoded with standard English closed-captions which can only be viewed with an external decoder.
The interactive menu functions (identical for both movie versions) allow you to play the movie, change the language (both spoken & subtitling), take a look at a bunch of "Extra Stuff" or jump to a selected scene. The "Extra Stuff" section is probably where you'll want to go first, since it has a whole slew of neat things hidden in there. First off, you can choose to watch two deleted scenes. The "Viking Scene" was the original prologue to the film, which gives the history of The Mask and shows the Vikings trying to ditch it. The scene runs 1m45s and is letterboxed at about 1.76:1, and it was unfortunately removed from the final cut because it moved a little too slow. Next up is "Death of Peggy," which shows what really happens to Amy Yasbeck's character (I think you can guess what happened from the chapter title...). This was removed since it was apparently deemed to be a little too harsh compared to the rest of the film, and in Russell's commentary, he does states that Yasbeck and her agent are now happy that the scene was cut, since she'll probably be appearing in any sequel that gets made. "Death of Peggy" runs 2m and is letterboxed at 1.76:1 as well. As both deleted scenes are taken from a workprint, the quality is nowhere near the quality of the actual film transfer - the image is dark, soft and a little muddy, and some minor effects sequences are missing, and the monaural dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. Next up is an option to select the director's commentary track. After that, you can view the original theatrical trailer, which is in excellent condition (it runs 1m57s and contains a surround stereo soundtrack - it appears letterboxed at 1.76:1 on the widescreen side, and cropped on the standard side). The deleted scene and the trailer are presented only in English, and no subtitles are available. Lastly, there is "The Cast" section, which features biographies and filmographies for the actors. Featured are Jim Carrey (8 pages), Cameron Diaz (3 pages), Richard Jeni (3 pages), Peter Greene (4 pages) and Peter Riegert (7 pages). Going back to the "jump to scene" option, you can choose from 9 selected scenes by image and description.
The Mask is encoded for Region 1 players only (U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada), and is packaged in New Line's plastic and cardboard "keep case." The inside flap contains a full listing of all the chapters, but is in error - although 31 chapters are listed, only 30 are encoded onto the disc itself. The listed chapter #12 ("Waste Not, Want Not") is not chapter-marked on the disc - chapter #13 ("Presenting Miss Tina Carlyle) is actually encoded as #12, and so forth.
I said it before, and I'll say it again...The Mask is as perfect a DVD as there can be, and I'm looking forward to New Line's future releases. (And I bet you all thought I was going to say "s-s-s-s-smokin'" somewhere in this review, didn't you!)
Review by Jeff Krispow
Original Review: 05/09/97
Last Updated: 08/22/97