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May 13, 2006 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 13, 2006 |

Can I just begin by asking: Who the hell thought this would be a good idea? What studio exec was so insipid that he or she thought resurrecting an 11-year-old comedy starring a goofy TV personality would make a film of any worth? Why not Operation Dumbo Drop 2 starring Dax Shepard and Nicole Hilton, or something equally as random? Are office workers and fraternity brothers still quipping one another with “Alllll-righty thens” over 10 years later? How did this warrant a sequel? The fact that Son of the Mask even exists reinforces some of the more cynical assumptions regarding Hollywood these days. Producers and executives are more interested in scraping a few bucks during the movies’ dry season by churning out unremarkable (or, in this case, reprehensible) and irrelevant tripe such as this than in making decent films.

Let the pain begin: Our delightful tale begins by introducing us to Tim Avery (Jamie Kennedy), a fledgling cartoonist stuck in a lower-rung job at a high-end animation company. Tim dreams of someday finding greater success by gaining a vehicle for his cartoon ideas. Meanwhile, his wife Tanya (Traylor Howard) is nagging him about having a baby, but it seems ol’ Tim has incipient fears about becoming a father. Later, he’s able to pitch his show to an animation higher-up, who tells him his entertainment ideas “lack spark.” Here you may insert the obvious joke to yourself or the person on your left.

Instead of Tim simply blowing his brains out and mercifully ending the movie, he naturally dons a filthy wooden mask that Otis the dog dragged in earlier and goes to a company costume party. Well, wouldn’t you know, the mask turns out to be the infamous Mask of Loki, which endows its wearer with the ability to become computer-animated and bounce around like an idiot. Tim does exactly that, wowing his friends and coworkers with a moronic song-and-dance routine, then goes home and nails his wife. Does Tanya find it the slightest bit unsettling that her husband’s face is now made of malformed green Play-Doh? Did the mask’s shape-shifting powers have some kind of ameliorative effect on his genitals? This is upsetting and confusing.

Even more disturbing: Tanya gets knocked-up and the ensuing child is born with the goofy abilities of the mask. Meanwhile, Loki (Alan Cumming), the Norse god of mischief, is scouring the Earth in search of his eponymous mask at the behest of his domineering and disapproving father, Odin.

Sadly, there’s more. Just as Tim is discovering that there might be something quirky about his infant boy and Loki is honing in on their location, Otis the Dog becomes jealous of the new baby stealing his thunder, plops on the mask himself and tries to put the kid out of commission. What ensues is a series of Tom & Jerry slapstick-cartoon encounters involving characters being bonked, blasted, and generally explosively assaulted. These manic CG interactions are done in a style almost identical to the Warner Brothers cartoons of 50 years past, a reference which should have every animator of that era whirring in their graves fast enough to become a viable power source well into the next century.

The most annoying thing about this film, among so many others, is that it uses computer animation as a crutch to make up for the total scarcity of good plot, dialogue, acting, and writing — a mistake being made more and more in recent years. The fact that the filmmakers think viewers will be willing to sit through such an experience simply because of the visual effects (which actually appear more unintentionally horrifying than funny, incidentally) is unforgivable hubris.

Son of the Mask is a terrible, terrible movie, needless to say. It’s a movie that seems to torture you for every nanosecond of its harrowing 86-minute running time, managing to outdo itself in terms of obnoxiousness and inanity every step of the way, without having one genuinely funny moment appreciable to a person over 4 years old. It features deluges of urine, vomit, and phlegm more repulsive than anything appearing in Team America in what is ostensibly a children’s film. It’s a film that makes the previous 1994 feature look like a positively urbane Noel Coward romp, and everyone involved in the production deserves to be rounded up and forced to watch this cinematic atrocity over and over and over again as an appropriate act of contrition, were it not specifically outlawed somewhere by the Geneva Convention.

I might also point out that Loki is not Odin’s son according to Norse mythology; a nitpick which gives this otherwise fine, credible, and splendidly acted movie its only flaw, beside its hundreds of thousands of others.

Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.

Son of the Mask / Phillip Stephens

Film | May 13, 2006 |

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