The Mask

For some reason when I was a child I assumed I would grow up to be an adult with a lot of repressed fury. I’m not sure why, exactly, because my childhood didn’t have any of the rough building blocks that turn people into angry adults. I think that somehow I picked up on the fact that I was a nerd and that nerds were supposed to be bitter. Maybe I just saw Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk and thought that going from glasses wearing weirdo to rage-beast was my destiny. After all, I already had the glasses.

I didn’t grow up to be very Hulk-like, honestly. I have a reasonable amount of anger in my life and for the most part I express it in justifiable ways; I don’t let it fester and corrupt me like Bruce Banner does. My main emotion is actually disappointment. When something shitty happens I’m mostly sad that I now have to deal with that instead of doing something fun.

I realize it might be weird to bring up the Hulk when the actual movie I'm reviewing is the Mask, but the Mask is in a lot of ways the same character as the Hulk: he's a repressed 'nice guy' (I put 'nice guy' in quotes because he's the sort of dude who bitches about being friendzoned by a coworker) who magically finds an unhealthy outlet for all of the emotions that he can't express in his daily life. Specifically, he finds a magical mask that allows him to turn into a green faced demon who woos all the women and shoves mufflers up the asses of the car mechanics who are ripping him off.

When I saw this at the start of my teenage years it made sense to me. I had assumptions about what adult life was like and this movie played into them. Now that I'm actually an adult it's obviously a pile of crap. If your landlady is a horrible screeching monster you have the right to move. If a girl is taking advantage of you for small favors but is clearly not interested in dating you then it's on you to set the boundaries and protect yourself. If the car shop you go to isn't honest pick up a phone and call someone else because there are other mechanics. The sort of person who can't do those things isn't some sweet natured everyman, they are an immature weirdo looking for excuses to stockpile resentments. They need to learn the first rule of adult life yet: running your life is your problem and no one else’s.

Look: we all have animal desires that we want to uncage. Even mature well-adjusted people are going to have sexual impulses that they wish they could express but can’t, and there’s a part in all of us that wishes we could get violent revenge on some of life’s more galling shitheads. But the lie of this movie is that learning to control those desires in an adult way is something you need a magic mask’s help doing, or that it’s even possible to learn those lessons through one singular experience. No, you have to learn how to be an adult slowly, piecemeal, with embarrassing missteps and painful effort. I understand that that movie is less entertaining and less of a fit for Jim Carrey’s shenanigans, but it’s still true.

The same way that I still some vestigial love for the Hulk I can still see the humor in some of the Mask's antics. But it's a lot sadder to me now than it is funny because I have met people who grew up to be that guy and they lead terrible lives. Because they are never going to get a magic mask that will let them escape that trap, they just have to sit and stew in their own frustrations. Those people aren't funny, they are disappointing. But then again, so is a lot about adult life.

Winner: The Cat

The Mask on IMDB