90s nostalgia

Ace Ventura, Comedy Touchstone

Photo: Warner Bros.

Jim Carrey made headlines a few months ago when he declared that he wouldn’t do anything to promote Kick-Ass 2, on account of the film’s portrayal of gun violence. He ruffled some feathers, but it was basically Jim Carrey being modern-day Jim Carrey, Twitter-happy and prone to minor scandals. His current incarnation casts a weird, unsavory shadow over his previous work, and that’s unfortunate, because it means we might lose sight of the fact that Ace Ventura is a cultural touchstone.

Let’s mention right here that Ace Ventura is noxiously transphobic and homophobic. The big reveal at the end of the movie is that Lieutenant Einhorn (Sean Young) is actually a man, at which point everyone collectively vomits and gets all grossed out, oh, ha-ha-ha. It plays into the worst of the post–Crying Game spoofs, and by any contemporary standards, the film’s sexual politics are patently offensive.

That was the first major thing that leapt out at me when I rewatched the movie recently. The second was oh my God, I used to quote this movie so, so much. Much in the way Austin Powers references seemed to dominate the late nineties, Ace Ventura was the go-to for quotes, at least for the tween set, in the early nineties. Part of this has to do with how hammy the script is: The movie is half catchphrases and half montages. The most famous is “allllllrighty then” — just typing this made me cringe — but there are probably 50 other lines that made their way into everyday usage in my life at some point. The talking butt was a personal favorite, and the “do not go in there!” line seemed like the ne plus ultra of toilet humor. (Also, I was super in the market for toilet humor. Toilet humor was the best!) “Holy testicle Tuesday” was a phrase so brilliant Shakespeare couldn’t have topped it. Just thinking about the line”Dan Marino should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell” could make me laugh, even though I barely understood what gonorrhea was and I did not know that Dan Marino was a real person. (I come from a baseball household.)

Whenever my family’s dogs rushed to the door to greet us, I felt like someone was obligated to say “come to me, my jungle friends.” Usually that person was me. When I learned how to swim butterfly, I was taught to think of the dolphin-kick hip-thrust as the motion Ace Ventura makes while saying “Can ya feel that?!” Years later, when I was the one with the lifeguard whistle, I told my swimmers the same thing.

I wish I could say I’d completely grown out of this, but even a few years ago when my local NPR station had a reporter whose last name was Einhorn, I couldn’t stop myself. Every time she signed off, I’d think, Finkle and Einhorn! Einhorn and Finkle!

Again, a lot of Ace Ventura absolutely horrifies me now. But I can’t unsow the comedy seeds it planted in my 11-year-old brain. And even as Jim Carrey supports dangerous anti-vaccine bullshit and can’t seem to rise above dum-dum Twitter fights, there’s a tiny joy synapse in my brain that still fires when I see him. Can you feel that?!

Ace Ventura, Comedy Touchstone