Jim Carrey needs a second wind, that’s what this pitch is based on. The man has done fantastic things as far as a career arc goes, bouncing from physical comedy movies into more serious dramatic roles. Looking at his IMDB page, it becomes necessary to blur ones eyes and just pick out titles in sequential order: Jim Carrey never gave up physical comedy (though Series of Unfortunate Events might have been his last primarily physical role), it just got shoved to the side as the man attempted to become more of an actor and less of a comedian.
I Love You Phillip Morris, his latest, has had a hard time getting a release date in the US (we’ll finally get to see it December 3rd) because of it’s homosexual content. That not only makes the US film market look bad (and, honestly, the MPAA already makes us look pretty hypocritical as a movie-watching and parenting nation), but it’s tugging on Jim Carrey like a stone. You don’t want a stone on the tail of your rising star. Hollywood is about keeping leading man status, and Jim Carrey is doing the bare minimum. Sure, his name will come up attached to a project, but it’s not something film fans necessarily rejoice.
A new hit means new offers (just ask Natalie Portman how the positive buzz on Black Swan is getting her an offer on every female role in pre-production), and what Jim Carrey needs is a new hit.
Don’t Mention The Kid
What Warner Bros is likely looking for is a new franchise, but Ace Ventura isn’t it. Need I remind anyone about Ace Ventura Jr: Pet Detective (which was originally announced as Ace Ventura 3)? That was based on a Jim Carrey-less Ventura world where his kid and grandfather (Rex Ventura) were the only family members present (besides the Mom, who was a damsel in distress, sorta). Somehow, Jr. ended up going direct to Warner Home Video.
The way to go with a new Ace Ventura is not with a movie for kids. Don’t get me wrong, the first movie works great a s a kid’s film, it’s just that the character doesn’t work well as a children’s property. Of Jim Carrey’s kingmaker properties (Ace, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber), each spawned an attempt to move Carrey’s humor onto another character or re-focus the properties to children’s entertainment (Jr, The Son of The Mask, Dumb & Dumberer). This is all a mistake. The thing that made these properties successful is Jim Carrey the manic character actor.
What Ace Was
What made Pet Detective and When Nature Calls so successful was stacking Jim Carrey’s Ace against social classes that would reject him sight unseen and watching the madness unfold. At the end of the day, Ace Ventura is a Sherlock Holmes for animals – that includes a sharp wit, the ability to deduce based on simple visual clues and the general attitude of not caring what the world at large thinks. In When Nature Calls, there’s even a scene where Ace punches the miniscule husband of an upper-class woman wearing a fox pelt. He wears the unconscious husband while pacing around the room: Ace Ventura is essentially a PETA member that has access to the logical part of his brain, and that’s the character people lined up to see. It’s a mistake to think that more animals equals more funny (What was the name of that sequel to Bruce Almighty?), what makes more funny is putting Ace in situations where decorum and social niceties stand in the way of a mystery being solved.
Whatever is happening at the beginning of Ace Ventura 3, it needs to bridge the gap of time between the mid-90s and now. One of the harder questions that should pertain to every sequel is: “Why now?” There isn’t a good answer to that question in the previous films. There’s a slight possibility we could assume When Nature Calls was a prequel to Pet Detective and pick up with Courtney Cox having a kid (or dying, or getting divorced so Ace has another shot at her), but we’re not here to revive Courtney Cox, we’re here for Ace and Jim Carrey.
The Presidental Pardon of Ace Ventura
I propose that Ace Ventura 3 should be about the line of sanity that separates Ace from a crazy person. There’s a reason Ace is our protagonist, not a cat lady, and that reason is that the man is smart and heroic. That’s why the subtitle, P.E.T.A.philia, draws a line that allows the Ace character to be beset on both sides by characters that hold opposing viewpoints. Rather than Ace only being up against the class system (either as a hired gun for a pro-football team or dealing with a Colonial sect in Africa), he now has the status quo on one side and another group of people (in this case, we’re mocking PETA) who represent the disastrous results of sharing Ace’s beliefs without any basis in morality or logic.
I apologize, now, to anyone that takes PETA very seriously, but when compared to the world of Ace Ventura, there’s no way they don’t get mocked.
I suggest getting Ace very close to the line that divides these two groups, then set him loose to do bit comedy, solve a mystery and…well, we’ve gotta have the catchphrases.
My pitch would start wit a cold opening scene where we learn that Ace accidentally ate a human on one of his globe-hopping animal adventures. The scene would take place in the late 90s (maybe he needs to find a particular animal before Y2K?), and would build as a comedic piece until, finally, Ace accidentally eats part of a human being. Somehow, this information gets out, even if it’s through a classic flashbulb-cut-to-newspaper-headline edit. Ace Ventura should go to jail for cannibalism right off the bat. The audience gets to see how it’s not really his fault, but the facts are there: cannibalism.
Flash forward to the current day, and (because our goal is to put Ace in a fish-out-of-water setting) the President’s pet is missing. It would likely be a dog, but could be any pet that furthers the mystery that is set to unravel. The Secret Service – who I’m pretty sure has to protect Presidential pets – suspects that PETA has captured this animal because of friction between PETA and some seemingly inconsequential government bill that will likely end up being the lynchpin of the underlying mystery. The bill (or it could be an election, I’m thinking these few days out from MidTerms) adds a ticking time bomb to the story: they need to find the pet now.
Enter the Presidential Pardon of Ace Ventura, a man who has become PETA legend in his absence. While Ace has been in jail, quietly aging outside the spotlight, the MYTH of Ace Ventura has grown: he was an animal rights activist that finally crossed the line and ate people. The PETA of this comedy film sees this as a courageous act of protest.
The President needs Ace to track down his pet by infiltrating PETA and seemingly becoming their leader. This plot puts him in Washington, where social niceties are necessity, then moves him to a world of animal lovers that should be his paradise…until he discovers that the PETA of this comedy film is more idealistic-cum-crazy attractive women and malnourished, old vegan men (who likely joined to impress the women).
Ace Ventura as a character has gotten two movies to make the most out of Jim Carrey’s physical comedy. What hasn’t changed in either of those movies is the light-hearted nature that they lampoon basic social structures: football fans, the aristocracy, cops, near-racist natives, British colonials, women. He’s the James Bond of the Pet Detective world, but he always comes back in the moral right. What would differentiate Ace Ventura 3 from the previous installments (and by doing so, justifying it’s own existence) is the addition of a social structure that has all the same guidelines as Ace’s character without any of the morals.
That’s how Ace starts the movie by eating a person and still ends the hero who saves the day and reminds us that even animal rights can occasionally be taken way too seriously. It’s about Ace Ventura as a moral character, which is what they’ve all been about.