I was a big fan of Jim Carrey when I was a kid. In Living Color was one of my touchstones, one of my earliest influences and it (and Kids in the Hall--hands down, Canada’s most important cultural export besides Strange Brew) was one of the first things that made me want to be a comedian. I loved Carrey on that show. Fire Marshall Bill? Please. It’s still funny today. And I loved his early movies, especially Dumb & Dumber. I was twelve when Dumb & Dumber came out. I was the target audience.
The problem Carrey has always had, despite doing solid-to-good dramatic work in movies like The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the widely unseen I Love You Phillip Morris, is that 1) people just don’t cotton to Dramatic Jim Carrey and 2) his audience has remained twelve years old. Carrey’s humor was always rooted in the juvenile, but eventually you have to figure out other ways of making people laugh besides talking with your ass or else it gets sad. There’s something especially depressing about a comic doing the same joke he used fifteen years ago on an audience that wasn’t even born when he first told the joke (see also: Adam Sandler).
Carrey, no question, needs a comeback. Unless he wants to spend the rest of his life recycling Ace Ventura, he needs to find a way to redefine himself for audience. Last week we took a look at how Kevin Costner is reinventing himself for the second half of his career, and now it’s Jim Carrey’s turn. Deadline reports that he’s been approached about a small but important role in Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall (yes, that’s the title). Carrey is known to be a big fan of the original movie, so I’m sure on a personal level this is thrilling in a way I can’t comprehend, but professionally this is the kind of role he needs to be taking. He needs a distinctive character, very different from himself that he can use to reintroduce himself to
Back in 1996 Carrey earned his first $20 million paycheck, for The Cable Guy. This is what fascinates me about this generation of movie stars—they all reached that pinnacle of success, commanding the biggest paychecks and the sweetest deals, only to see their influence and earnings drain away as the Movie Star died. I really don’t think any actor is worth $20 million up front, so I have zero issue with them making less these days, but I do find it interesting, watching this generation, the $20 million generation, re-strategize and prioritize their careers. I’m kind of obsessed with what they think about. Does it chap their ass to have to essentially start over in the middle of their career? It would have to, right?
Carrey has his work cut out for him in terms of a comeback. He’s not working the same kind of good will as Costner, who made some seriously beloved movies (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 4 life). He’s already taken one smart move in the right direction, though, partnering with Steve Carell for the comedy Burt Wonderstone next year. Carell isn’t a box office guarantee but people like him. Joining Kick-Ass 2 would be another smart one, giving him some much-needed cool cred with younger, but not twelve year old, audiences. The inevitable Dumb & Dumber sequel, though…I don’t know. The potential is there, sure, but that’s also the kind of thing that can blow up in your face. It’s hard for aging comedians because what you think is funny and what people find funny about you changes over time. Carrey was a very inventive comic performer, once upon a time; he should be able to complete the career rebound. But one thing Carrey could definitely do to improve his image is ditch the ludicrously pretentious website.
Attached - Carrey leaving the Aerosmith afterparty in LA a few weeks ago.