A-List: Five Best Jim Carrey Movies
By J. Don Birnam
July 23, 2014
When I was a kid there was a small set of movies me and my cousins would watch on an infinite loop - press stop, rewind, and start all over. They were Spaceballs, Home Alone, Weekend at Bernie’s (don’t ask) and Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. I guess we were young teenagers at that point. Not a lot has happened to most of the actors that starred in those movies (unless you consider a life of drugs and tabloids to be something, a la Macauley Caulkin), except for one of them. Who would have thought that the dolphin loving, face-in-the-plunger, wild-haired cook from Pet Detective would turn out to have a respectable career?
But he did. In the same year as Pet Detective, Jim Carrey starred in The Mask, alongside Cameron Diaz as she exploded onto the scene, and the rest was history. Although he has faded of late, Carrey became box office gold for a good 10 years, at least for his comedies. And when he ventured into more serious roles he received critical acclaim and audience respect, though, notably and controversially, not from the Academy, which arguably begrudged him his ridiculous starting roles as they have done many stars from Richard Gere to Eddie Murphy.
Over the years, Carrey has starred in some of my favorite movies of all time, and at some point he was probably my favorite working actor in Hollywood. Indeed, I looked through my DVD collection and found no fewer than eight Carrey titles. Other than the Harry Potter kids, no one even came close. So I decided to take a look back at his filmography to see if I could narrow the list down to my top five favorites. And the rules for this one will be simple: if Jim Carrey is in the movie, then it counts. The challenge here really is in classifying how good a movie is: should one focus on Carrey’s performance alone, or on the movie as a whole? Meryl Streep movies are famous for being mediocre even when her performances are superb. Carrey’s filmography is not quite as dissonant, but the challenge remains nonetheless between appreciating the whole or the individual part.
As always, one can make light of some the not-so-great entries into the Hollywood vernacular of the type of movie one is analyzing. As good as some of Jim Carrey’s movies are, the ones that are bad stink, and are unwatchable. Thus, Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy, and Fun with Dick and Jane are painful experiences I don’t wish on anybody. His appearance as the Riddler in Batman Forever is also regrettable, although you can’t really blame him for the disarray in which the Batman franchise was at that point.
And, again as always, I should give a shout-out to some honorable mentions. We’ve discussed Ace Ventura and The Mask, both superb crass comedies that are audience pleasers if that’s your genre. Pet Detective even has somewhat of a plot, and the effects in Mask are amusing. Man on the Moon, where he plays Andy Kaufman, is also worthy of a mention. Carrey gives one of his best three performances by far here, although the movie is a bit too eccentric for my taste to reach the top five. But the movie I struggled to keep out the most and that deserves mention is Liar, Liar. On any other day, this may have landed as my favorite Jim Carrey movie. It represents the one where he began the transition from all comedy into a bit more serious fare, features a delightful Jennifer Tilly, and a good courtroom drama twist before Legally Blond came along with a similar idea.