Total Recall

Total Recall: Jim Carrey's Greatest Movies

We count down the comedian's 10 best-reviewed films.

by | December 17, 2008 | Comments

He’s one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, one whose career has weathered
such box-office storms as The Majestic and The Number 23 to amass
over $3 billion in receipts — and with his latest release,
Yes Man
,
bowing this weekend, we decided there was no time like the present to take a
look at the best-reviewed films of Jim Carrey’s career.

He earned his first real success by tapping into America’s unquenchable thirst
for broad slapstick comedy, but Carrey always had bigger ambitions than anyone
could have guessed by watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and he’s
proved it repeatedly by choosing projects beyond the scope of Farrelly-friendly
laffers. His reach has occasionally exceeded his grasp, but few careers can
boast a range extending from Dumb and Dumber to Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind
— and on that note, let’s take a look at Jim Carrey’s 10
most critic-friendly films!




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10.


Dumb & Dumber

(1994)





Tomatometer: 60 percent


Sea Bass! Part of Carrey’s 1994 trilogy of broad-as-a-barn, occasionally
revolting comedies, Dumb and Dumber paired the rising star with Jeff
Daniels as a pair of well-meaning dimwits who stumble into a cross-country
adventure involving Lauren Holly and a briefcase full of cash. While not quite
the across-the-board smash that There’s Something About Mary turned out
to be a few years later, Dumb and Dumber still managed to include
enough charm between the goofy jokes to reach 60 percent on the Tomatometer.
It didn’t win any points for smarts, obviously, but that was beside the point
— as recognized by writers such as Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman,
who noted that “Carrey…does literal-minded doofdom with peerless
enthusiasm.”






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9. Earth
Girls are Easy

(1992)





Tomatometer: 61 percent


You might be surprised to find this late-night cable mainstay on a list that
includes cult favorites like The Cable Guy and box-office champs like Bruce
Almighty
, but the Tomatometer does not lie, and critics cheered loudly
enough to send this 1989 cult classic all the way up to 61 percent. Although
quite a few scribes sniffed at at Earth Girls are Easy‘s low ambitions
and thick layer of cheese, a greater number were able to grin and bear Julien
Temple’s brightly colored send-up of hokey sci-fi and ’80s life in the San
Fernando Valley. As a furry red alien named Wiploc, Carrey received one of his
first major chunks of screen time here, and although his efforts were rewarded
with minimal box-office success, he did get to trade lines with Geena Davis
and Julie Brown — and help earn some delightfully backhanded praise from the
likes of Luke Y. Thompson of the New Times, who declared the film to be
“stupid but wonderful.”





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8. Man on the Moon

(1999)





Tomatometer: 62 percent


For most of the ’80s and ’90s, Andy Kaufman was a little-remembered comic,
mostly known for his portrayal of dimwitted immigrant mechanic Latka Gravas on
the ABC sitcom Taxi — but the late ’90s witnessed a resurgence in
interest surrounding Kaufman’s often pioneering work, thanks to a pair of
biographies, a handful of DVD reissues, and the R.E.M.-referencing Man on
the Moon
. Carrey continued his ’90s run of prestige pictures with Moon,
subsuming himself so completely into the role of the inscrutable Kaufman that
most critics were willing to forgive the movie’s fuzzy, weightless middle, its
fudging of certain facts, and a few fumble-fingered attempts at going meta.
Although many scribes were quick to point out the movie’s flaws — and
Kaufman’s all-too-apparent flaws as a protagonist — praise for Moon‘s
star was all but universal, typified by Jeffrey M. Anderson of Combustible
Celluloid, who applauded, “Carrey gets inside Kaufman’s skin.”






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7.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

(2004)





Tomatometer: 70 percent


It was a bit of a non-starter at the box office, failing to recoup its $140
million budget with its domestic receipts, but few roles in the history of
children’s fiction have ever been better-suited to an actor than the
villainous master of disguise known as Count Olaf and his on-screen
counterpart, Jim Carrey. Although A Series of Unfortunate Events drew
the ire of some fans of the books for softening their frequently nasty edges,
it remains a visual feast, as well as a tour de force for Carrey, who was able
to take advantage of his manic energy in a way not seen since his mid ’90s
heyday. A sequel remains in development limbo, but don’t let Hollywood’s cold
feet keep you from giving Unfortunate a rental — as the Reno
Gazette-Journal’s Forrest Hartman put it, “not many children’s movies center
on recently orphaned children delivered to the home of a homicidal thespian.
Then again, not many children’s movies are as good as this one.”





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6. The Mask

(1994)





Tomatometer: 76 percent


One of the only films to ever net its star nominations from both the Golden
Globes and the Golden Raspberries, 1994’s The Mask presented filmgoers
with something of an early ’90s trifecta: State of the art special effects,
some marvelously over-the-top mugging from Jim Carrey, and a heaping helping
of va-va-va-voom from instant star Cameron Diaz, who turned Carrey’s nebbishy
bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss into a leering Tex Avery wolf (and had roughly the
same effect on male viewers). It’s loud and far from subtle, but The Mask
is also a lot of fun, not least because Carrey’s impossibly limber performance
ultimately proves to be as much of a special effect as anything else on the
screen. Variety’s Leonard Klady spoke for many of his peers when he summed it
up as “adroitly directed, viscerally and visually dynamic and just plain fun.”






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5. Dr. Seuus’
Horton Hears a Who!

(2008)





Tomatometer: 79 percent


Carrey’s first brush with a Seuss-inspired adaptation didn’t go so well, which
may have scared a few viewers away from the CG-animated Dr. Seuss’ Horton
Hears a Who!
— but it was their loss, as attested by the mostly quite
positive reviews that greeted the second film adaptation of this timeless tale
of a good-hearted elephant who teaches his detractors that “a person’s a
person, no matter how small.” As Horton’s voice, Carrey did a better job of
adding marquee value than bringing hidden layers of meaning to his character,
and critics were quick to point out that Horton suffers most of the
same difficulties that are bound to trouble a 90-minute film based on an
illustrated short story, but for most, the movie’s charms proved impossible to
resist — such as Brian Webster of the Apollo Guide, who happily reported that
“taking on Seuss has proven a challenge for Hollywood, but a nice balance has
been struck here between authenticity and new ideas. This one’s a winner.”





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4. Liar Liar

(1997)





Tomatometer: 84 percent


Given that Carrey and Liar Liar director Tom Shadyac had previously
collaborated on Ace Ventura, a person could have been forgiven for
assuming that their reunion would rely on the same scatalogical humor and
over-the-top physical comedy that the world’s most famous pet detective rode
to box-office riches…and they would have been right, to an extent, although
Liar Liar features a much softer-edged version of Carrey’s manic
persona. It isn’t his sharpest comedy, but at this point, even critics who had
grown accustomed to hating Carrey’s work found themselves surprisingly
susceptible to his charms — most notably Roger Ebert, who wrote “I am
gradually developing a suspicion, or perhaps it is a fear, that Jim Carrey is
growing on me.” Filmgoers had no such fear, driving this family-friendly tale
of a pathological fibber rendered unable to lie for a day to global grosses in
excess of $300 million.






more info…



3. Peggy Sue Got
Married
(1986)





Tomatometer: 88 percent


Okay, so he didn’t have the biggest part in the movie — but for a young actor
who’s just starting out, even a bit role in a movie with a pedigree like Peggy
Sue Got Married
is worth remembering. Despite a troubled two-year birth
that saw the departures of its original star (Debra Winger) and director
(Penny Marshall), Peggy Sue ultimately did all right for itself,
picking up Francis Ford Coppola behind the cameras and over $40 million in
box-office receipts (resuscitating Coppola’s commercial fortunes in the
process). Carrey doesn’t exactly steal the show as a younger version of one of
the time-traveling Peggy Sue’s boyfriends, but it’s still an interesting
glimpse of the future star in action — and besides, Peggy Sue Got
Married
is well worth watching for a host of reasons that have nothing to
do with this week’s Total Recall subject. As Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss
put it, “this prom-night balloon of a movie floats easily above the year’s
other exercises in ’50s nostalgia. If you dare reach for it, it will land
smartly in your heart.”






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2.
Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind

(2004)





Tomatometer: 94 percent


While he spent the early ’90s mugging it up for fans of perfectly obvious
comedy, few people could have guessed that Jim Carrey would wind up sharing
top billing with one of the premier actresses of her generation in a
mindbending, critically beloved drama about the nature of love and memory —
but that’s exactly what he did in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,
going toe to toe with Kate Winslet in one of the most unusual and eye-catching
films of the early aughts. Armed with a script co-written by Charlie Kaufman,
director Michel Gondry riddles the film with stunning visual effects that,
depending on what you want out of the movie, either deepen its metaphorical
layers of meaning or are simply really cool to look at. It’s admittedly too
strange and/or chilly to appeal to everyone, but at its heart, the movie lives
up to Mariko McDonald of Film Threat’s assessment of it as “fresh, heartfelt
and ultimately heartbreaking in its honest portrayal of a modern
relationship.”






more info…



1. The
Truman Show

(1998)





Tomatometer: 95 percent


Is it science fiction? A comedy? A drama? A psychiatric syndrome? Actually,
1998’s The Truman Show is all of the above — which has a lot to do
with why it’s not only the best-reviewed film of Jim Carrey’s career, but a
high-water mark for ’90s cinema in general. Carrey stars as Truman Burbank,
the unwitting star of a wildly popular reality series engineered by a producer
named Christof (played by Ed Harris), in which Truman’s life — complete
with fake wife, fake friends, and a whole fake town — is lapped up by eager
audiences. It didn’t net Carrey the Academy Award that many were anticipating,
but The Truman Show has endured over the last 10 years, and predicted
the overwhelming popularity of reality television in the years to come. In the
words of Hollywood Report Card’s Ross Anthony, “this is clearly one of the
decade’s cleverest, most original pictures.”



Check out the rest of our Total Recall columns from the archives, and click here for
Carrey’s full filmography.

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