Tom Shadyac’s ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE is obnoxious. It’s joyfully bothersome and that’s a big part of its crude charm, with Jim Carrey turning in a peculiar performance as repellent as it is animated. In some sense, this 1994 comedy maybe ought to be strictly for a young audience. But that’s offensive to children and young audiences, who are (and were) just as likely to find these unwell antics off-putting. ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, then, exists in a kind of comedic Gehenna.
Carrey is the title character and he is indeed a pet detective. He is pressed into the biggest case of his career when the Miami Dolphins’ mascot is hijacked. Ventura teams with the publicist (Courtney Cox) of the football club to track down the actual dolphin. This leads to a series of adventures and comedic situations, like when Ventura invades a billionaire’s posh party or when he narrows the lens on a football rivalry that may have serious implications for one Dan Marino.
Nothing about ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE is taken the least bit seriously, which can be maddening for those looking for lucidity. This is a self-destructive mainstream comedy. It plays from a character with no ability to maintain propriety, chomping on extraneous matters like plot and continuity with an open mouth. It burps, farts and talks with its own ass. It moves sideways, a slick and stupid pompadour pointed scathingly at polite society. It’s hard to imagine such a thing being popular these days.
Calling Carrey’s character annoying goes without saying. There’s no indication that the comic actor isn’t trying to be desperately exasperating, so the mission is accomplished with happy vigour. One of the only (slightly) comparable characters in modern cinema seems to be Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, a character also immersed in the energetic problems of the 1990s. In ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, Carrey is the superhero in the Aloha shirt, a boot up his own talking ass. A brassy, hideous joke at everyone’s expense.