Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)

Starring: Jim Carrey, with small roles from Tommy Davidson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Bruce Spence
Grade: A

It’s funny to think that just a few months earlier, Jim Carrey would hunt Batman as The Riddler. Then, when the fall came around, he was still hunting a bat as Ace Ventura. Talk about a coincidence!


On the side of the Himalayan Mountains, pet detective Ace Ventura (Carrey) is climbing in pursuit of a raccoon who the helicopter rescuers deemed unimportant while flying away from the scene of a crash. Trucking along, Ace refuses to give up on the raccoon and continues to climb. After feeding a hungry bird on the way up by spitting food from his mouth into the bird, he gets to the top of the mountain and sees the scene of a crashed plane and an open pet cage. His capuchin monkey Spike crawls out his pocket and hangs by his neck as he scans the scene. Finally, he sees the raccoon on a ledge parallel to them, so he fires a harpoon with a rope attached to it to allow for him to climb across. Ace latches the raccoon to him as he climbs back across the line. Unfortunately, the latch breaks. Though Ace catches the raccoon by the hand, he loses his grip, and the raccoon falls to his death. Sometime after, Ace suffers a mental breakdown, and we see him in hiding at a monastery in Tibet. British correspondent of Nibia in Fulton Greenwall (Ian McNeice) visits the monastery to see Ace and is taken to him by the main monk (Arsenio ‘Sonny’ Trinidad) in charge. In Ace’s private room, he sits cross-legged, at peace, and surrounded by a litany of jungle animals. Fulton offers Ace a job in finding a lost animal, but he insists that money doesn’t mean anything in his current state. However, he considers it for a moment once Fulton offers $20,000. Regardless, he says he can’t and talks about how he’s needed here, though the monk interrupts to say that Ace needs to use his talents and he’ll help him pack. Firing back, Ace argues that he hasn’t achieved “omnipresent super galactic oneness”. Clearly wanting him to leave, the monk spreads his hands and tells him he has officially obtained it and doubles down on it, so Ace believes him. Ace asks about his medallion representing spiritual accomplishment, so the monk takes off his own and gives it to him, despite it taking him 80 years to achieve. This gives Ace everything he needs to officially take the case. He departs and tells the monk to break the news to the other monks gently. Unsurprisingly, they celebrate like maniacs when they finally get the news Ace is gone.

Exiting the temple with Fulton, Ace puts a Slinky on the massive stone staircase it takes to get there, but it stops just before the bottom. He wants to do it again, but Fulton says he can’t because they’re going to miss their flight.

On the flight, Ace imitates the mating calls of various animals before Fulton interrupts to talk about the mission. Since their sacred animal has vanished, the peaceful Wachati tribe believes a curse has fallen on their village. When he continues, Ace doesn’t listen to a single word of his story because he’s focused on his in-flight peanuts. Next, Fulton mentions how the daughter of the chief (Damon Standifer) is set to marry the first son of the Wachootoo tribe, and the sacred animal was offered as dowry for the marriage. If the animal isn’t recovered, the result will be a “merciless slaughter” of the Wachati. Eventually, they land in the Bonai Province in Nibia, Africa. Fulton navigates and has Ace drive to the consulate Vincent Cadby’s (Simon Callow) place. With minimal direction about a turn, Ace drives straight into the jungle as a shortcut and destroys the jeep before parking it in Cadby’s driveway. Cadby is having some sort of garden party with many guests. As he shows off his horse, he hits it with a riding crop to stop once he sees Ace and Fulton walk towards him. Immediately upon getting off his horse and greeting the two, Ace takes Cadby’s riding crop from him and hits him on the ass with it in retribution for the horse. Moving on, Cadby asks for examples of Ace’s expertise, and he proceeds to lay out his whole life story with just basic clues on his clothes and some markings he sees. Of course, this impresses Cadby a lot, so he goes on and brings him into his mansion. They walk through the party, and Cadby talks about the issue with the tribes, calling the Wachootoo a “bloodthirsty” bunch and how it’s imperative they find the sacred animal. As Ace makes faces with the food that’s out for the guests, rich colleague Burton Quinn (Bob Gunton) interrupts to greet them. He owns and operates Quinnland Safari Park. Also, he has a pet raven perched on his shoulder. Upon seeing two new guests come down the stairs, Ace excuses himself.

The woman has an expensive animal pelt across her shoulders and the other looks like the Monopoly guy, so Ace gives both of them shit. When the snobby woman insists there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the “fruits of nature” and how he should try it, Ace punches her guest and puts him over his shoulders as sort of a human pelt. Then, he dancers around the house as all the guests watch his antics. Once he gives the guy back to his date, Cadby steps in and demands he meet with him and Fulton in the projection room. There, he’s introduced to Hitu (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), head of private security in the province. Cadby tries to explain details on the slide projector but Ace messes around too much, so he cuts it short. Cadby assigns Fulton to assist Ace. Before they leave to begin the mission, Cadby takes him into a room where all of his hunting trophies of stuffed severed animal heads are. Ace flips out, calls it a “lovely room of death” to not give Cadby the satisfaction, and leaves. When Ace and Fulton go to the car, an elephant that Cadby owns trots by them. Ace gives the elephant the direction to sit down, and it does directly on Cadby’s car, destroying it. Trekking through the jungle with Fulton, they discuss the details of the mission and one glaring issue is revealed to Ace. The sacred animal he has to find is a bat. Despite being a lover of all animals, the bat is the one thing that absolutely freaks Ace out. Following this, he’s introduced to the Wachati tribe, and he greets them all like how only Ace Ventura would. Then, Fulton takes him inside to meet the Chief. Once Ace has Fulton translate how he’s going to find the bat for them, the Chief spits in his face as a sign of respect and admiration. The chief’s son Prince Ouda (Maynard Eziashi), who can speak English, also spits in Ace’s face. Of course, this prompts Ace to spit right back at them and it drenches everyone inside the hut. They’re all friends with Ace now.

Ace is taken to the sacred hut where the bat was kept. Apparently, they got past the guard because he was sleeping, though the guard is a baboon with a spear. They go inside the hut and Ace tries to investigate this mini-alter of sorts, but the Chief immediately pulls a knife on him because it’s sacred ground. The Chief reiterates the importance of finding the bat to Fulton while Ace messes around by stepping on the sacred ground behind him. Following this, Fulton explains that unless the sacred bat is returned before the marriage of the princess, the entire Wachati tribe “will meet their death”. The bat he has to find is the Great White Bat, known to the natives as “Shikaka”. As Fulton says the words, the Chief and his Ouda kneel. Seeing this, Ace messes with them by saying it a couple more times and then starts saying words that sound similar to try and trick them like a game of “Red Light, Green Light”. Eventually, he gets the Chief on one and tells him to leave.

Ace is right in the thick of things. Though he’s still disgusted by bats, he’s in too deep now and can’t fall back on his love for all living creatures. Along the way, he’ll still have to deal with an on/off war between two primitive tribes, poachers, and the unknowns of the jungle.

My Thoughts:

It may not hit the iconic levels of its predecessor, but Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is a welcomed sequel that only further adds to the lore of everyone’s favorite pet detective with hilarious results.

Made only a year after the first film, Jim Carrey slips back into the role with ease and doesn’t lose a step. Right from the beginning, Ace is up to his usual antics, but there needed to be some sort of character development to differentiate this sequel from the original amidst all the callbacks to it. To throw us off a bit, Ace fails for the first time, with a raccoon falling to its death in a hilarious sequence parodying Cliffhanger. Fun fact, this movie is the only reason why I could never take the emotional aspect of Sylvester Stallone’s famous action thriller serious. Even so, seeing Ace fail to save an animal is a very interesting development because you’d never thought you’d see something like this. It makes sense as to why he experiences a breakdown of sorts. Instead of sitting in his sorrows like Stallone’s Gabe Walker would (a little too heavy for a movie like this), Ace joins a Tibetan monastery where he shuns society and tries to rebuild himself from the ground up. Those who have complained about the sequel being too similar to the first one don’t understand the genius of this opening sequence and why it has added so much to the character. Here, we finally see the character at his most vulnerable. Truthfully, this was never touched on in the first movie. Though he would get his ass kicked or strike out on an initial guess, Ace always seemed to be just a step away from solving everything and looked to be somewhat in control for a majority of the time. On top of that, he always had a quip for everyone and could evidently have any woman he wanted. In When Nature Calls, Ace loses in a potential life-altering scenario where his confidence is shattered, and he becomes a shut-in who needs help. As outrageous as it may seem, this is an odd but logical step to take the character in while staying true to him and the over-the-top style of the franchise.

Adding to the humor, the monks and their lifestyles not coinciding with Ace Ventura’s weird, idiosyncratic energy and outlandishness was a very nice touch. They don’t tell Ace directly nor make anything too obvious for someone like him, but they can’t stand Ace’s presence. When you see how frantically the monk in charge tries to jumpstart the process of getting Ace out of the monastery, even giving him his 80-year-old medallion that essentially is a symbol of him completing his spiritual journey, just to get Ace out of the fucking place is pure hilarity. Following this underrated opening sequence, we are introduced to a new version of Ace. Is he still the walking talking cartoon character who will mess around at any given chance? Well, considering that the first thing he does upon leaving the temple is play with a Slinky, the answer is yes. However, those who don’t like this sequel as much need to pay attention to how Ace has evolved in this sequel compared to the first film. He’s much softer and more playful in When Nature Calls compared to Pet Detective, and it can be attributed to this opening sequence. In Pet Detective, there’s much more of a wickedness in his spirit and a carefree aura about him that is almost violent in nature. In When Nature Calls, he’s slightly toned down. It’s so slight actually that it might only be noticed if you watch both movies back-to-back. This sequel realizes how popular this franchise is with younger audiences and seems to acquiesce to their demands. It’s not enough to completely overhaul the character, but the story and certain details in jokes and such seem to line up very well with more of a family-friendly vibe. It also makes sense within the context of the story following Ace’s spiritual awakening too. This is why I can’t hate the direction they took this sequel in because they made it make sense.

Take notes screenwriters. As long as your added developments make sense within the story and it’s written and performed well enough, you can make anything work.

Another element added to the evolving protagonist was making the lover of all animals hate bats. As opposed to other fans, I enjoyed this realistic vulnerability for our beloved main character. Even though he’s known to love and respect all animals as a pet detective, Ace not liking one because of its creepiness isn’t the worst thing in the world. If anything, it makes him human and that’s okay. Exploring the mind of Ace Ventura is something we’ve always wanted to do, and When Nature Calls allows us to do so without changing what made the first movie as great as it was.

One criticism noted by many people has been passing this sequel off as a retread of the first one, which could not be further from the truth. Sure, there are a lot of callbacks to the first film, but this is for good reason. All of the jokes, catchphrases, and moments from the original created a legacy for the character. To forget them to make the sequel completely different would be a disservice to the fans. His “Alrighty then!” catchphrase maybe shoehorned in at some points, but it’s just as much a part of Ace as Indiana Jones’s hat is. You have to include it. The same goes with Ace talking out of his ass to get the attention of the animals because it was the most popular scene of the first film, or Ace talking in reverse to repeat how he solved the crime, which was arguably the funniest moment of both movies. A callback is not only funny in the moment but necessary when it comes to movies that are so popular with mainstream audiences. You don’t want to rely on it entirely to make your film like in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but you want to honor the work it took you to get there and build on it like in the Creed franchise. If there were ever a third film to complete this trilogy, we should all expect the jokes Carrey’s Ace Ventura made famous to return because it’s a part what this franchise is about. It might be shtick, but it’s shtick that Carrey has made his own and helped initiate a legacy. As previously stated, you don’t want to rely on the old jokes the entire time, but a well-placed callback or moment that only fans would remember from the original (or previous films) should be welcomed. It’s a big part of making sequels what they are.

Don’t let the callbacks deter you though. This sequel is very funny. You may have seen a lot of jungle movies in the past, but When Nature Calls gives us a whole new crop of gags and sequences that will have you cackling with laughter to keep things fresh. For instance, Ace infiltrating the bat cave in fear starts out as something by-the-numbers. Then, to keep himself calm, he talks to himself by explaining how he’s safe as long as he has his medallion. Immediately, he throws it at what he thinks is a bat screaming, “Take that you winged spawn of Satan!” before throwing his torch as well and frantically running away as the bats chase him. It’s just as crazy as you want it to be, and prime Carrey puts every ounce of energy he has into it. From dusting the entire sacred temple and not finding a single clue until he flips over the alter to find a feather, to interrogating and torturing Quinn by scratching a fork and a knife on a plate and then apologizing after he realizes Quinn is completely innocent, to beating the hell out of an alligator like he’s his little brother (“Stop hitting yourself”), this sequel has arguably just as much replay value as the first one. I laugh every time the alligator tries to escape, and Ace drags it back into the water to continue fighting. Everything with the Wachootoo tribe was great too. The fact that the only reason he survives is because they all admit it’s funny to watch him get his ass kicked by an unrecognizable Tommy Davidson is great stuff.

How can you not laugh at the spear gag?

No matter what you may think of either Ace Ventura film, it should be known that both have two of the funniest sequences ever put to film. Of course, When Nature Calls‘s famous scene is the mechanical rhino sequence. When we say this is worth the price of admission alone, it’s 100% a fact. Also, Ace crashing the car he’s in to the point where it’s completely totaled, and he somehow gets out without a scratch on him is a hilarious signature that needs to be used more often.

If you’re wondering why this sequel isn’t as loved as the first one, it’s the location. Putting someone as insane as Ace amongst a sea of normal people in a big city environment allows Ace to stand out and look even crazier than he already is. It allows for him to be a few steps ahead of everyone, and he can run wild while making people uncomfortable. It gave more of a sense that anything could happen. In a jungle, you’re putting Ace in an environment that matches his energy. Think about it, the most amusing bits and quotes from the movie happen when he’s messing with Cadby and all the rich people like the stuff with the Monopoly guy (“Thanks for the free parking”). It’s because Ace thrives when faced with the uptight. Though the scenes with the warring tribes are still very funny because the hysterical Jim Carrey as a comic talent is unmatched, it doesn’t hit that next level because Ace can’t shine nearly as bright when everyone is just as savage as he can be. Here, he’s treated like he’s out of his element with threats, as opposed to the insults from Miami PD in the first movie, and he has to respond accordingly. Does he still fit in his fuckery like messing with the sacred ground of Shikaka behind the Chief or sneezing as soon as he’s told that the Wachati never experienced disease until crossing paths with white people? Of course, but he still understands that the threats this time around are a little more serious. This is why he gets his ass kicked more often than not in this sequel. Since he’s matched up with people and an environment that refuses to play around and cannot be fucked with, Ace sees adversity he’s never seen before and pays the price a lot more often than he did in this movie’s predecessor. It only adds to the points earlier about making Ace look more vulnerable in this sequel. In this case, you have to take the good with the bad. Though it may not align with what Ace was before, this sequel represents a different Ace at a different stage of his life. Once you take this into account, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for this sequel.

In the first movie’s review, I compared Ace Ventura to the similarities he has with the characters Groucho Marx used to play. In the third act, Ace rides an ostrich into the room to save the day much like Harpo did in At the Circus. Though this is probably a coincidence, I’d like to think that this was Carrey acknowledging the anarchic spirit of something the Marx Brothers did all those years back with his Ace Ventura movies.

Even if the supporting cast is nowhere near the first film, this is a great sequel. You know why? Well, when you have a lack of a supporting cast but a fantastic main character and actor, you can never get enough of him and he’s free to do whatever he wants in every scene. Basically, it’s The Ace Ventura Show, and real fans of the first film should have no problem with this because he’s the reason we’re watching Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls in the first place. If this idea was to be the trend for future sequels, I would be first in line to see every last one of them. Even from an objective standpoint, When Nature Calls is an excellent continuation of the series. It’s still very funny, contains all the elements you loved about the first one while further developing the character, and we get to see cinema’s most underrated protagonist in another crazy environment solving another bizarre case. What more can you ask for?

It’s a shame we never got a third movie (2009’s Ace Ventura Jr. : Pet Detective doesn’t fucking count).

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