Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is a 1994 American comedy film starring Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura, an animal detective who is tasked with finding the abducted dolphin who is the mascot of the US football team Miami Dolphins. The film was directed by Tom Shadyac, who wrote the screenplay with Jack Bernstein and Jim Carrey. The film co-stars Courteney Cox, Tone Loc, Sean Young and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and features a cameo appearance from death metal band Cannibal Corpse.
|Ace Ventura: Pet Detective|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tom Shadyac|
|Produced by||James G. Robinson|
|Story by||Jack Bernstein|
|Music by||Ira Newborn|
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$107.2 million|
Morgan Creek Productions produced the film on a budget of $15 million, and Warner Bros. released the film in February 1994. It grossed $72.2 million in the United States and Canada and $35 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $107.2 million. It received generally unfavorable reviews from critics. Carrey's performance led to the film having a cult following among male adolescents. In addition to launching Carrey's film career, it also spawned the sequel film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), the animated TV series Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (three seasons, 1995–2000), and later, the direct-to-video spin-off sequel Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective (2009).
Ace Ventura is an eccentric, very unorthodox Miami-based private detective who specializes in retrieving tame or captive animals. He struggles to pay his rent, and is often mocked by the Miami Police Department, led by Lieutenant Lois Einhorn, who finds Ventura insufferable. Two weeks before the Miami Dolphins are to play in the Super Bowl, their mascot, a bottlenose dolphin named Snowflake, is kidnapped. Melissa Robinson, the Dolphins’ chief publicist, hires Ventura to find Snowflake.
Searching Snowflake's tank for clues, Ventura finds a rare triangle-cut orange amber stone, which he recognizes as a part of a 1984 AFC Championship ring. Ace suspects billionaire Ronald Camp may have stolen Snowflake, as he is known for collecting exotic animals through less-than-reputable means and sources. Ventura and Melissa sneak into Camp's party, where Ventura mistakes a shark for Snowflake and is nearly eaten. Camp apologizes and shakes Ventura's hand, revealing on one of his own fingers an amber stone identical to the one Ventura found. Ruling out Camp, as he was not missing the amber stone, Ventura concludes that a member of the 1984 Miami Dolphins line-up may have kidnapped Snowflake, and attempts to identify the culprit by their rings. However, he discovers all of the team members’ rings are intact.
Roger Podacter, the team's head of operations, mysteriously dies after falling from his apartment balcony. Einhorn declares it a suicide, but Ventura proves that it was murder. He comes across an old photograph of the football team, discovering an unfamiliar player named Ray Finkle (also Young), who was only added in during mid-season. Finkle missed the field goal kick at the end of Super Bowl XIX, which cost the Dolphins the championship, ruining his career. Visiting Finkle's parents, Ventura learns that Finkle fully blames Dan Marino due to Marino allegedly placing the ball incorrectly before the kick, and was so fixated on this that he was committed to a mental hospital for homicidal tendencies. Marino is kidnapped himself shortly thereafter. Ventura visits Einhorn, pitching his theory that Finkle kidnapped both Marino and Snowflake in an act of revenge, since the dolphin has been given Finkle's old team number and a goal trick to boot. He also theorizes that Finkle murdered Podacter when the latter discovered him snooping around his apartment. Einhorn compliments Ventura and kisses him.
Ventura and Melissa go to the mental hospital, the former posing as a potential patient, where he uncovers a newspaper article in Finkle's possessions about a missing hiker named Lois Einhorn. Ventura, with a clue from his dog, realizes that Einhorn is in fact Finkle: Finkle used the fact that the actual Einhorn was missing and presumed dead (with no body found), and took on her identity, had surgery to change his gender, and took advantage of her position in the Miami Police Department to get revenge on Marino and the Dolphins. On Super Bowl Sunday, Ventura follows Einhorn to an abandoned yacht storage facility where she has Marino and Snowflake held hostage. Einhorn calls the police, blaming Ventura with no proof. Melissa and Ventura's friend, police officer Emilio, stage a hostage situation to get the police to listen to Ventura.
Ventura, with some help from Marino, strips Einhorn of her clothes to reveal that Finkle never got the penectomy and vaginoplasty necessary to perfect the disguise. This confirms that Finkle murdered Podacter after the latter had discovered Finkle's secret. Einhorn is arrested by the police after attacking Ventura, and Finkle's ring is identified to have a missing stone. Marino and Snowflake are welcomed back during half-time at the Super Bowl in a match between the Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles. Ventura tries to retrieve a valuable albino pigeon, but it is scared off by the Eagles’ mascot Swoop, causing Ventura to attack him in retaliation.
- Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura
- Courteney Cox as Melissa Robinson
- Sean Young as Lt. Lois Einhorn / Ray Finkle
- Tone Loc as Emilio
- Dan Marino as Himself
- John Capodice as Sgt. Aguado
- Noble Willingham as Riddle
- Troy Evans as Roger Podacter
- Raynor Scheine as Woodstock
- Udo Kier as Ronald Camp
- Frank Adonis as Vinnie
- Tiny Ron as Roc
- David Margulies as Doctor
- Bill Zuckert as Mr. Finkle
- Judy Clayton as Martha Mertz
- Alice Drummond as Mrs. Finkle
- Rebecca Ferratti as Sexy Woman
- Mark Margolis as Mr. Shickadance, Ace's landlord
- Randall "Tex" Cobb as Gruff Man
- Cannibal Corpse as themselves
The Chairman and CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, James G. Robinson, sought to produce a comedy that would have wide appeal. Gag writer Tom Shadyac pitched a rewrite of the script to Robinson and was hired as director for what was his directorial debut. Filmmakers first approached Rick Moranis to play Ace Ventura, but Moranis declined the role. They then considered casting Judd Nelson or Alan Rickman, and they also considered changing Ace Ventura to be female and casting Whoopi Goldberg as the pet detective. Ultimately the producers noticed Jim Carrey's performance in the sketch comedy show In Living Color and cast him as Ace Ventura.
Carrey helped rewrite the script, and filmmakers allowed him to improvise on set. Carrey said of his approach, "I knew this movie was going to either be something that people really went for, or it was going to ruin me completely. From the beginning of my involvement, I said that the character had to be rock 'n' roll. He had to be the .007 of pet detectives. I wanted to be unstoppably ridiculous, and they let me go wild." He said he sought comedic moments that would be unappealing to some, "I wanted to keep the action unreal and over the top. When it came time to do my reaction to kissing a man, I wanted it to be the biggest, most obnoxious, homophobic reaction ever recorded. It's so ridiculous it can't be taken seriously--even though it guarantees that somebody's going to be offended."
The film was produced on a budget of $15 million.
Warner Bros. released Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1,750 theaters in the United States and Canada on February 4, 1994. The film grossed $12.1 million on its opening weekend, ranking first at the box office and outperforming other new releases My Father the Hero and I'll Do Anything. For its second weekend, it grossed $9.7 million and ranked first at the box office again, outperforming newcomers The Getaway, Blank Check, and My Girl 2. Variety reported of Ace Ventura's second weekend in box office performance, "The goofball comedy defied dire predictions by trackers, slipping just 20% for a three-day average of $5,075 and $ 24.6 million in 10 days." The Los Angeles Times reported, "Audiences are responding enthusiastically to Carrey's frenzied antics... The film... is especially a hit with the 10- to 20-year-old age group it was originally targeted for. Box-office grosses indicate that many fans are going back to see the film again." It grossed $72.2 million in the United States and Canada and $35 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $107.2 million. The film's US box office performance led Variety to label it a "sleeper hit". On home video, Ace Ventura sold 4.2 million home videos in its first three weeks, which Los Angeles Times called "just as powerful a draw" as its theatrical run.
Carrey also starred in The Mask and Dumb and Dumber later in the year. The three films had a total box office gross of $550 million, which ranked Carrey as the second highest-grossing box office star in 1994, behind Tom Hanks.
The Hollywood Reporter said before Ace Ventura, Jim Carrey was "seen mainly as TV talent" and that with the film's success, it "firmly [established] him as a big-screen presence". The film's success also led Morgan Creek Productions to produce the 1995 sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls with Carrey reprising his role. Author Victoria Flanagan wrote that Carrey's performance "generated cult success for the film among adolescent male viewers". NME wrote in retrospect that the film was a "cult 1990s comedy".
The Los Angeles Times reported at the time, "Not many critics have been charmed by Ace Ventura's exploits, and several have charged that the film's humor is mean-spirited, needlessly raunchy and homophobic." Ace Ventura: Pet Detective received "generally unfavorable" reviews from contemporary critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic, which assessed 14 contemporary reviews and categorized six as negative, five as positive, and three as mixed. It gave the film an overall score of 37 out of 100. The review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 59 reviews, gives the film a score of 47% with an average rating of 4.55/10. The site's consensus reads: "Jim Carrey's twitchy antics and gross-out humor are on full, bombastic display in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which is great news for fans of his particular brand of comedy but likely unsatisfying for anyone else".
Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, said, "I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot." Ebert described the lead role, "Carrey plays Ace as if he's being clocked on an Energy-O-Meter, and paid by the calories expended. He's a hyper goon who likes to screw his mouth into strange shapes while playing variations on the language." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune called it "An appallingly bad movie, a certain candidate for worst of the year." Steve Gaydos of Variety praised Carrey's "ceaseless energy and peculiar talents" but reported, "Film sputters and eventually slows to a trot due to the script's inability to give Carrey anything more than a free rein to mug and strut, and a third-act payoff that takes the film's generally inoffensive tastelessness into a particularly brutal and unpleasant stew of homophobia and misogyny." The New York Times film critic Stephen Holden said, "The comic actor Jim Carrey gives one the most hyperactive performances ever brought to the screen... Only a child could love Mr. Carrey's character, but that may be the point. The movie has the metabolism, logic and attention span of a peevish 6-year-old." He said of Ace Ventura's animals, "The few scenes of Ace communicating with his animals hint at an endearing wackiness that is abruptly undercut by the movie's ridiculous plot."
The Washington Post's film critics Rita Kempley and Desson Howe reviewed the film positively. Kempley said, "A riot from start to finish, Carrey's first feature comedy is as cheerfully bawdy as it is idiotically inventive." She added, "A spoof of detective movies, the story touches all the bases." Howe said that the film "is a mindless stretch of nonsense" and highlighted multiple "Carreyisms along the way". Howe concluded, "There are some unfortunate elements that were unnecessary -- a big strain of homophobic jokes for one, profane and sexual situations that rule out the kiddie audience for another. But essentially, Ace is an unsophisticated opportunity to laugh at the mischief Carrey's body parts can get up to."
James Berardinelli said, "The comic momentum sputters long before the running time has elapsed." Berardinelli said of Carrey that he "uses his rubber features and goofy personae" that succeeds for a short time but after that, "Carrey's act gradually grows less humorous and more tiresome, and the laughter in the audience seems forced." The critic said the film has "its moments" of humor but considered there to be "a lot of dead screen time" in between.
|American Comedy Award for Funniest Lead Actor in a Motion Picture||1995 American Comedy Awards||Nominated|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Male Newcomer, On Video||1st Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Won|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actor - Comedy, On Video||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Actor Award||Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 1995||Nominated||Also nominated for The Mask|
|Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star||15th Golden Raspberry Awards||Nominated||Also nominated for Dumb and Dumber and The Mask|
|London Film Critics' Circle Newcomer of the Year Award||1995 London Film Critics' Circle Awards||Won||Also won for The Mask|
|MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance||1994 MTV Movie Awards||Nominated|||
|Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie Actor||1995 Kids' Choice Awards||Won||Also won for The Mask|
Since the film was released, there has been some discussion over the way in which it portrays gay and transgender people. Alexandra Gonzenbach Perkins wrote in Representing Queer and Transgender Identity that mainstream representation of transgender identity at the turn of the 21st century was limited, observing, "The representations that did exist tended to pathologize transgender people as mentally unstable." Perkins said Ace Ventura along with The Crying Game depicted "transgender characters as murderous villains".
In the book Reclaiming Genders, in a chapter focusing on transgender identity, Gordene O. Mackenzie references Ace Ventura as an example of turn-of-the-century films that "illustrate the transphobia implicit in many popular US films". Mackenzie describes the scene in which Ace Ventura retches in the bathroom, following the revelation that the woman he had kissed is trans, as "one of the most memorable and blatantly transphobic/homophobic scenes". In The New York Times in 2016, Farhad Manjoo also writes about this scene, "There was little culturally suspect then about playing gender identity for laughs. Instead, as in many fictional depictions of transgender people in that era, the scene’s prevailing emotion is of nose-holding disgust."
An episode of the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine in 2016 referenced the portrayal with character Jake Peralta saying of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, "Classic film, one of my childhood favorites, and it only gets overtly transphobic at the very end, so, a win." Vulture's Allie Pape wrote, "Someone on the writing staff clearly rewatched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and found it wanting by modern standards."
In October 2017, Morgan Creek Entertainment Group announced plans to reboot several films from its library, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Its president David Robinson said Morgan Creek's plan was not to simply remake the film, but to do a follow-up in which Ace Ventura passes the mantle to a new character, such as a long-lost son or daughter.
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