Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

Starring: Jim Carrey, Courtney Cox, Sean Young, Tone Lōc, Dan Marino, and Randall “Tex” Cobb, with a cameo from Cannibal Corpse
Grade: Classic

In early 1994, Jim Carrey starred in his first feature film in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. With this, a legacy began, and network television had found the movie it was going to play weekly to fill up a time slot.


Masquerading as an “HDS” (a thinly veiled parody of UPS) driver, pet detective Ace Ventura (Carrey) hand delivers a fragile package but handles it with the least amount of care as humanly possible before giving it to some random guy (Cobb) at his doorstep. At the same time that Ace has the guy sign some insurance forms, Ace asks to pet the dog the guy has been yelling at. He doesn’t care, so Ace does. Once Ace leaves, the guy yells at the dog to move out of the way of the door, but the dog doesn’t listen. He goes over to grab it but sees that his dog has been replaced by a stuffed animal. On the toy, there’s a sign that says, “You’ve been had by…Ace Ventura – Pet Detective”. On the street, Ace is running away with the dog and the guy pursues him. Upon getting into his car, Ace gives the dog some food but his car stalls when he tries to turn it on. He tries to wait it out, but the guy shows up with a bat and beats the holy hell out of his car, forcing him to try again in a hurry. Eventually, it works, and Ace drives off with the guy hanging onto the back of the car. Ace is able to get away once the dog and Ace bite the guy’s arm, forcing the guy to fall off. Immediately after, Ace drives into a neighborhood where we see the sign for the lost Shi Tzu and how to contact Ace if anyone has seen him. He gives the dog back to its rightful owner, who is one fine ass woman (Rebecca Ferratti). Instead of paying Ace, she offers to give him head on the spot and he obviously accepts.

At the Miami Dolphins stadium that night, the in-house live dolphin mascot Snowflake is sedated and kidnapped.

The next day, Ace tries to sneak back into his apartment to avoid talking to his landlord Mr. Shickadance (Mark Margolis), but he shows up right when Ace is trying to unlock his door. He demands his rent money and Ace promises he’s his first priority. Then, Ace shows him the $25,000 reward for a rare albino pigeon that’s been lost and how he’ll get the money as soon as he finds the bird. Shickadance changes the subject by bringing up how he heard animals in his room, which isn’t allowed. Though Ace insists he doesn’t bring his work home with him, Shickadance points out how the bag of groceries in his hand are for pets. He passes it off as fiber and invites Shickadance inside. Since Shickadance doesn’t see anything, he leaves but makes it known that Ace better not be caught with anything. After Ace shuts the door in his face, he invites all of his pets to come out of hiding and it’s an absolute zoo. He’s got everything from parrots to penguins, and he absolutely loves it. At the Miami Dolphins Stadium, a team executive flips out on head of operations Roger Podacter (Troy Evans) and the Dolphins’ publicist Melissa Robinson (Cox) over the fact that Snowflake has been stolen. Football players are already superstitious as it is. With their good luck charm in the team mascot being kidnapped, this puts the Super Bowl in jeopardy, as it’s two weeks away. They have to find the dolphin by Super Bowl Sunday, or they’re fired. They exit the room and debate whether an animal rights activist group could be the culprit. Then, they ask secretary Martha (Judy Clayton) for updates. Though she hasn’t, she comes up with an idea for them. When she lost her dog, she called a pet detective, so maybe they should do the same. As she talks about how professional and strategic of a process it is, we cut to Ace on a roof somewhere lunging at the albino pigeon he’s trying to capture. He misses, falls off the roof of a building, and onto a pile of garbage below. While lying in the rubble, his beeper goes off.

It’s time to get to work.

At Joe Robbie Stadium, Ace shows up and is brought in by Martha to meet Melissa. She gets right to it by showing Ace a video of Snowflake doing tricks and kicking field goals in his pool within the stadium. As Ace watches intently, he obnoxiously eats sunflower seeds and leaves the remnants on her desk. Following this, they get onto the field during the Dolphins’ practice and Ace starts looking around for clues before being introduced to Roger. Naturally, he throws Roger off with his eccentricities. Ace goes over to Snowflake’s tank and gets inside, as the cops already drained it. As he does an impression of James T. Kirk from Star Trek while talking about his mission, a confused Melissa and Roger watch from above. Reporters and media members start to flood the area, so Roger goes over to stall them. Then, Melissa frantically asks Ace to get out of the pool. Following this, Roger explains to the media members that Snowflake isn’t available at the moment and they all leave. At the same time, Ace finds a gemstone of some kind in the filter of the tank. Ace drives straight to Miami PD. After getting heckled by Sgt. Aguado (John Capodice) in front of everyone for the details of his job while killing an insect in spite of him, Ace gives it right back to him to the point where Aguado tries to punch him. Ace ducks and brings him to the ground. Next, Ace goes into the office of cop Emilio (Lōc). Ace asks him who’s working the Snowflake class, but Emilio insists he’ll get into a lot of trouble if Lt. Lois Einhorn (Young) finds him talking to Ace. After annoying Emilio enough though, he finally admits Aguado is working the case. They’ve already checked the animal rights activists, taxidermists, and the DMV for recent local van rentals, and they don’t have anything. Just then, Einhorn walks in, and everyone stands up straight. She demands to know why Ace is here, and he jokingly says he was the second gunman in the JFK assassination.

Einhorn isn’t about the jokes and detests Ace, telling him to let the professionals handle the Snowflake case, but we know that’s not going to happen. Ace isn’t intimidated in the slightest by Einhorn and after poking holes in the very little she does know about animals, he heads out to continue his mission. With only days to solve the Snowflake case, combined with pressure from the Miami Dolphins organization, and the Miami Police Department standing in his way, Ace Ventura has his work cut out for him.

My Thoughts:

In one year alone, Jim Carrey helped make three “Classics“. There was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in February, The Mask in July, and Dumb and Dumber in December. He could’ve retired off of these three movies alone and he still would be considered among the greatest to ever do it. Say what you want about his style of comedy, but there is a reason why Carrey become one of the most successful actors of his generation. Truthfully, there was no one like him. He was over-the-top in everything he did, he could contort his body and face like a cartoon character, he could exaggerate words and movements for a laugh in a way that no comedian has done before or since, and his energy knew no bounds. He wasn’t just telling jokes out there. Every last bit of his skeletal and nervous system had the ability to be funny. Once again, it made him a living, breathing cartoon character. When you take all of this into account, you may ask how someone like this can pull off being a “regular” leading man? Well, it’s a bit of a process. However, the first step is finding the perfect role for his talents and going from there. Of course, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is exactly that, the quintessential guide into the innovative comedic stylings of the legend known as Jim Carrey. With a ludicrous premise and a protagonist that is like no one you’ve ever seen in the history of cinema, Carrey and director Tom Shadyac put together one of the funniest films to ever exist. Critics have called it stupid and retrospective reviews have been offended by elements of it, but make no mistake about it, the first Ace Ventura is uproariously funny and can be looked at as one of the very few movies that could genuinely be given the label of having a “Laugh-a-minute”.

Star Jim Carrey is let off the leashes of sketch comedy and into the world of film, and it’s everything we’ve ever wanted. Never before has it felt like a comic actor has been given the freedom to do whatever he wants in a scene with only a basic direction or question thereof of, “Can you somehow make this funny?”. When given an inch, Carrey stretches it ten miles into the wackiest hour and a half mystery a casual viewer may ever see. Some call it overacting, but it’s really not. This is just the character of Ace Ventura, and that’s why it works. It’s not a world where everyone is a deadpan doofus like in The Naked Gun. Everyone else in Ace Ventura is a normal person. They all acknowledge this wacky, weirdo, surprisingly intelligent maniac that this pet detective seems to be, and most don’t like him. He drives like an absolute jackass, he will cause a scene anywhere he goes purely because he feels like it, and he’s made enemies with the entire Miami Police Department. Everyone knows he’s off a bit. Ace is an eccentric that moves, talks, and acts like a cartoon. In virtually every scene, he walks in this sort of animated way, speaks with an intensity and an overemphasis on certain words and jokes, and he snaps his head wildly in the direction of who he’s talking to as if he knows he’s putting on a show. This is also a less talked about element of the character. Ace knows people find him odd and how he makes them uncomfortable. He knows they find him extremely annoying, but he revels in the chance to make their opinion of him even worse than it already is. It doesn’t really matter because he loves his pets. If he had no friends at all, it wouldn’t affect him one bit. The only time we see Ace relent a bit is with Melissa, but it’s only for a moment. In that moment, he goes to apologize to her (after calling her ugly in another hilarious exchange) and he sounds like a normal Carrey. It only lasts about a minute though because he’s interrupted by a phone call.

However, just this small inkling of reality shows that there’s a lot more to Ace than what he shows to the public. The fact that Melissa was able to bring it out of him makes their mini-romance that much sweeter. As a fan, it does make us miss her in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. She could have been the Sue to his Crocodile Dundee!

Regardless, Ace loves messing with people and making everyone aware of his unpredictable behavior. It’s like when he breaks Melissa down in their first meeting. After he chews his sunflower seeds and puts them on her table, she asks if he wants an ash tray. With the seeds noticeably in his teeth, he hilariously retorts, “I don’t smoke. It’s a disgusting habit”. People, he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s like when he tells his story about being chased by a dog in his dreams and uses it to scare her, with him admitting he couldn’t help himself while saying it with a straight face. As bizarre as he may seem, Ace is very aware of how he reacts in public to everyone, and he enjoys every second of it. Obviously, so does Carrey. Carrey’s approach to Ace as a character is a lot like the characters of Groucho Marx in the old Marx Brothers films in that even in the face of danger or a serious moment, he wastes time without a care in the world. The character has no problem making light of the situation at hand purely for their own amusement or whether anybody is listening or watching (in some cases because they are watching) like when Ace goes to infiltrate the tank at Ronald Camp’s (Udo Kier) house. He could have easily just walked over to the backdoor after climbing out the window of the bathroom, but he decides instead to make a whole Mission: Impossible parody by climbing over some fencing and faux-climbing a wall when it could have been avoided entirely by just walking straight. What about when he drives like a madman into the parking lot and barely gets into a parking spot without crashing while yelling, “Like a glove” to himself? When he’s first given the mission and investigates Snowflake’s empty tank, Ace hears the media members coming and Melissa yelling at him, but he can’t help but mess around and make random references and jokes when everyone else is pissed off at him and telling him to stop.

It’s like Bugs Bunny breaking the fourth wall and making jokes strictly for the audience even in the most tense of scenes. You can’t do this type of humor in every comedy. It gets harder to do with each passing year. Only the most talented of comic actors can pull it off and still be entertaining without taking the audience’s attention away from the action of the movie. Because of this difficulty, these characters and types of films have become very rare. Nevertheless, when it’s done right like in the case of Groucho Marx or Carrey as Ventura, it’s gold. As a whole, this film is an absolute joy to watch, and it makes you value the ability in a performer to improvise comedy as well, with Carrey being one of the master’s at it. Very few appreciate how difficult it can be to build a character like this while thinking of a constant barrage of gags and nuanced details to compliment such a wild spirit that we’ve never seen before. However, Carrey and Shadyac construct the ethos of this character from the ground up and it’s legitimately impressive how creative it is. As outrageous as it may sound, Ace is the perfect combination of hero, unpredictable maniac, and unbridled anarchy represented inside of a Florida citizen. The red and black striped pants, the array of Hawaiin shirts combined with a wife beater underneath, and a styled hairdo that is like a chocolate dipped ice cream cone, Ace Ventura is one of the most unforgettable characters of all time.

It’s also worth mentioning that he caught a bullet in his teeth during a shootout.

Though it is true that this movie has inspired the humor of generations of idiots, teenage boys, and children, can’t you see why? Using your asscheeks to talk to someone in an almost interrogational sense is downright hysterical. You can’t tell me otherwise. On top of that, you have Ace making the rich uncomfortable at billionaire Ronald Camp’s mansion party (“Do NOT go in there!”), Emilio telling Melissa that there’s nothing Ace can’t handle and the scene cutting to a gun in Ace’s face and him telling Einhorn to shoot Dan Marino instead, the montage of Ace investigating members of the 1984 AFC Championship team where he even chloroforms a player, Ace fighting the Eagles mascot at the Super Bowl, and above all else, you have Finkle’s mom straight up telling Ace that “Dan Marino should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell”. The nonstop hilarity fills in the cracks of the story, and it goes together like peanut butter and fucking jelly.

Also, Ace proving Roger Podactor’s suicide was actually a murder has to be on the list for one of the funniest sequences of all time. When he starts throwing it in their face with his pelvic thrusting while yelling “Can you feel it?” and then calls everyone a loser as he gets escorted out, I laugh every single time. You’d be hard pressed not to.

On a side note, this is one of the very few movies where I can confidently say that the sex scenes didn’t fit. First of all, based off how the character is portrayed and how popular it is with younger audiences because of Ace’s bonehead antics, it doesn’t seem to fit the tone. Though it was amusing to see that Ace has the sex drive of an animal showcased in the scene with Melissa and in front of all his pets (“3 times?”; “I must be tired”), it didn’t really fit the goofiness of the character nor did it in the first act with his random customer. Considering the tone and how he acts, making him a private detective who’s getting women with ease doesn’t align with the ridiculousness of who he is.

As crazy as the plot is, the twists and turns involved are interesting for a detective story like this, and the whole Ray Finkle being ridiculed by legions of Dolphins fans for messing up their chances at a Super Bowl for a missed field goal is accurate. Ask any fan of a major sports team in virtually ANY sport. If they can point the finger at anyone, they will and they will harbor the grudge for years. Sadly, it’s part of American culture. Seeing the player lose his mind because of it is a very nice twist though, as well as his vendetta against Dan Marino for not holding the laces out on the football when he went to kick it. As a mid-season addition, he got the axe at season’s end and lost his mind for being blamed by the entire state, and it makes the second half of this case very intriguing for such an outlandish film that primarily focuses on the comedy. It’s a much more complete movie than it’s given credit for because of these additional twists to the mystery that our hero has to solve, leading to a polarizing third act that is (1) very 90s, (2) extremely funny, and also (3) why the movie is considered controversial today. Unfortunately, all the measures Carrey took to make the movie as unserious as possible to make light of the situation fell on deaf ears, and it’s still looked at as offensive. You can’t please everyone, I suppose. Even so, all of this led to us getting to see Ace imitating a mental patient and not only is it laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it’s flat-out impressive from an acting standpoint.

It’s the role of a lifetime in a movie you will never forget. In a true masterclass in the lost art of physical comedy, the frenetic Jim Carrey presents to the world how talented he is as a comedic actor and why no one can do it quite like him with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Hysterical from start to finish and involving everything from a stolen dolphin to NFL icon and Hall of Famer Dan Marino to fucking Tone Lōc, one of the wildest pitches became one of the most popular movies of the 1990s and beyond. On paper, it’s ridiculous. Actually, it’s pretty ridiculous onscreen too, though you can rest assured that we wouldn’t have it any other way. Effortlessly quotable and constantly imitated because of its innovation, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is one of those movies so funny, you can sit there and laugh at the same exact scenes and jokes like it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it.

When a feature is able to pull off such feat, that is when you have a “Classic” on your hands.

Fun Fact: Rick Moranis was offered the titular role but declined. Judd Nelson, Alan Rickman, and even Whoopi Goldberg were also considered. Now, as you can see by their first round of choices, the original script was completely different. Can you imagine Alan Rickman trying to do anything close to what Carrey did? Additionally, David Alan Grier has gone on record saying he was approached to star at one point, and he was to team up with Rob Schneider, but he turned it down. Lauren Holly turned down the role of Melissa but would eventually play Mary Swanson in Dumb and Dumber.

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