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KIDS ON FILM

Dog and Crazy Co-Star Put the Bite in 'Mask'

August 11, 1994|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to the Times Orange County Edition

Manic Jim Carrey gets even more so as a nice guy-turned chartreuse-faced party animal in "The Mask." As doormat Stanley Ipkiss, Carrey finds a ritual mask that transforms anyone who wears it into the person or (in one big scene) animal they've always wanted to be. Rated PG-13)

"The Mask" has been described by a lot of people who ought to know as a high-tech animated tribute to the beloved low-tech classic Warner Bros. feature cartoons of the 1940s and '50s--particularly those directed by the legendary Tex Avery. There are takes, bits of business, sight gags, sound effects and mannerisms lifted straight from several of the true immortals.

But the kids who attended a recent screening of the fast-paced, live-action-and-animation valentine didn't know about that history, didn't really need it and didn't really care.

They just knew they loved a movie that can combine a really, really loony lead character, a lot of lightning-quick animation and one smart dog.

"My friends told me it was really funny, and I thought it was, too," said Adam Crine, 11, who was in Orange County from Henderson, Nev., to go to an Angel game with his father, Dave. "I really liked it, especially the part where the dog put on the mask and got those big teeth."

For most of the kids interviewed, that was the scene. Stanley, off to the Club Coco Bongo to save his sweetie and retrieve the mask, manages to let both temporarily slip through his fingers. But never fear. Diminutive Milo, Stanley's pet (who ought to have "The Wonder Dog" appended to his name), finds the mask, shoves his lovable beagle/mutt face into it and turns into the Ah-nold of the canine set.

"That dog was really funny," said Rakesh Shah, 15, of Anaheim, who added that he also relished the gag in which Stanley "flushed the bad guy down the fountain" with a convenient bit of Roger Rabbit-like animation.

Not to slight the rubber-faced Carrey himself. The kids didn't have much use for him as Stanley, but "I really liked it every time he put on the mask and turned into the other guy," said Gammion McCloud, 14, of Costa Mesa.

"The best part, I thought, was when he was in the club dancing with the girl and he got into that fight," said Henry Coleman, 15, of Anaheim. "That and when the bad guy got shot and just turned around and spit out the bullets. That was real good."

These bits of celluloid magic occur at the ubiquitous Coco Bongo (another nod to Avery, who set many of his cartoons in nightclubs). Stanley couldn't buy rhythm, but as Mr. Green Face, he moves like a shot, dances a series of impossible steps and provokes a wild gun battle, all of which he slips out of with aplomb (and a thoroughly vulcanized animated body).

Nick Rodriguez, 15, of Anaheim, said he particularly enjoyed Carrey's ability as a mimic.

"I liked it when the bad guys got him and he acts out all these different parts, like Tiny Tim," he said. "It was funnier than I thought it was going to be. I liked it even better than 'Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.' "

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