While he never really went away as such, Jim Carrey has been experiencing something of a renaissance in his acting career as of late.
The legendary Canadian actor and comedian, who often combines both disciplines to create his own signature brand of performance, has limited his leading roles in recent years, performing in 6 major films since 2011, only half of which were leading roles.
With recent leading roles in the acclaimed series Kidding, and the more critically maligned Dark Crimes, it seems that Carrey is once again embracing the limelight.
Last week, the performer garnered further attention for what is a very Carrey-esque rendition of Doctor Ivo Robotnik, A.K.A. Doctor Eggman, in the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog. Although, it’s hard to not appreciate the film’s surprising faithfulness to Carrey’s Robotnik, especially given that fan response to the Sonic’s live-action look was so acidic (and rightfully so), the film’s director had to publicly announce his intention to redesign the character.
But I digress. My point is that Carrey’s a scene-stealer, a real showstopper. The man can’t even give out an award without leaving a whole room of A-listers in hysterics, who await with great anticipation just what it is that will come out of his mouth this time around.
But Jim Carrey is more than just a comedic actor. He has more than proven himself capable of deep dramatic performances that defied any and all expectations set by the more juvenile, but endearing roles that initially catapulted him to superstardom.
With that in mind, here is my list of Jim Carrey’s Top 5 Roles. It is worth noting that this is not necessarily a list of Carrey’s finest films, but rather the performances that best define his career.
- The Mask (1994)
I could have just as easily begun this list with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the role that actually launched Carrey, but The Mask is not only a better film (that doesn’t involve Carrey talking with his ass), but is also a much better early representation of Carrey’s diverse talents as an actor.
Carrey manages to make Stanley Ipkiss feel like a relatable down-on-his-luck kind of guy, before he is essentially given free reign as his alter ego The Mask. The role is tailor-made for Carrey, with the film only bolstering his appeal as a naturally funny risk-taker.
- Dumb and Dumber (1994)
One of the quintessential Farrelly brother films, Dumb and Dumber continued Carrey’s massive streak of success following Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. Dumb and Dumber may not have overly wowed critics at the time, but its appeal is undeniable given an enduring cult status.
While there are numerous memorable scenes with some sharp writing by the Farrellys and co-writer Bennett Yellin, it is Carrey and his co-star Jeff Daniels who are the real stars of the show, bringing the characters of Harry and Lloyd to life in ways I’m sure even director Peter Farrelly couldn’t have imagined.
There was reportedly a lot of improvisation employed by the two leads, at the direction of the Farrelly, which plays right into Carrey’s comedic repertoire with hysterical results. His infectious chemistry with Daniels ultimately solidifies Dumb and Dumber as a classic of ‘90s comedy.
- The Truman Show (1998)
When it comes to famous actors and actresses, it is easy to forget that the vast majority of them had careers before becoming stars, and Jim Carrey is no different.
People tend to recognise Carrey’s work from Ace Ventura onwards, neglecting the 10-plus years he’d been acting before that, which is why The Truman Show came as such a surprise to audiences. Carrey had done dramatic roles in the years prior to his fame, but The Truman Show was different for two reasons.
First, he had become known solely for portraying zany caricatures onscreen, in the process becoming a box office force of nature. It was all the masses really knew of him.
Second, it was his first dramatic feature in the lead role, and not only did it go against type-casting, but the sheer quality of his performance defied expectations. The Truman Show is the film that allowed Carrey to redefine the trajectory of his own career.
- Liar Liar (1997)
There are some who will wonder why Carrey’s performance in Tom Shadyac’s Liar Liar is ahead of Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, and even more who will scoff at the (spoiler alert!) total absence of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind from the list. However, to concede to either would defeat the very purpose of my list.
Carrey’s performance in Liar Liar has earned the number 2 spot because I believe it to be the undisputed pinnacle of his signature brand of slapstick comedy acting.
Liar Liar is actually a solid comedy film in its own right, but Carrey elevates it to new heights with a performance that is as absolutely outrageous as it is uproariously funny, yet he somehow manages to find the humanity in all the craziness.
I would argue that Liar Liar is a precursor for the more emotional work Carrey would go on to do down the line, and any who say otherwise need to take a second look at the “I hold myself in contempt!” scene.
- Man on the Moon (1999)
On paper, Man on the Moon is something of an existential middle ground in Carrey’s career, as it drew neither the widespread acclaim of The Truman Show nor the box office clout of even his weakest creative efforts in the ‘90s. In fact, it’s the first film, post-Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, that actually lost money with Carrey as the leading man.
What it does feature, though, is hands down the best performance of Jim Carrey’s career.
Unlike Liar Liar, Carrey’s performance in Man on the Moon lacks the kinetic all-out performance style for which he is best known. Instead, Carrey reigns in his most exaggerated inclinations and channels them into his own freakishly uncanny portrayal of infamous comedian Andy Kauffman.
It is truly an astonishing performance, and one that effectively silenced the remnants of naysayers that still lingered after the The Truman Show.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons