ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS (1995)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Crude Humor

Directed by: Steve Oedekerk

Written by: Steve Oedekerk

Starring: Jim Carrey, Ian McNeice, Simon Callow, Maynard Eziashi, Bob Gunton, Andrew Steel, Bruce Spence & Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Seeing that ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE made seven times its budget back at the box office, it was only a matter of time before Warner Brothers pumped out a sequel. They handed the reigns of this second go-round to director/writer Steve Oedekerk (who later produced the THUMB shorts and martial arts spoof KUNG POW!: ENTER THE FIST). 1995 had also given Jim Carrey enough time to properly hone his big screen comedic abilities. As a result, ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS is a comedy sequel that’s surprisingly superior to its predecessor. The story is noticeably weaker this time around, but the laughs are in far greater supply and the film’s utter silliness is sure to put a smile on your face.

After a failed CLIFFHANGER-esque rescue mission results in a dead raccoon, pet detective Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) begins a life of solitude in a Tibet temple. Ace’s spiritual journey is interrupted by correspondent Fulton Greenwall (Ian McNeice) making an offer that Ace can’t refuse (20 thousand dollars for a single mission). A rare white bat has been kidnapped from an African tribe. If it isn’t found in a matter of days, bloodshed will ensue between two tribes. So, Ace is on the case and his investigation leads him to not-so-savory individuals, dangerous animals, and treacherous tribal customs. As you might imagine, Ace is not prepared and craziness ensues.

After starring in better comedies than the first ACE VENTURA (e.g. THE MASK, DUMB AND DUMBER), Jim Carrey seemed to get a handle on his laugh-inducing abilities and rubbery facial expressions. His second outing as Ace brings actual character to this character and not simply a series of hyperactive references (a problem that the first film suffered from). This character’s antics are funnier this time around, because we learn more about him. We watch as he subjects snobby rich people to the pain they’re inflicting upon animals (the Monopoly guy scene always cracks me up) and also laugh at how he’s petrified of bats (which makes his mission much more difficult).

In all honesty, the supporting cast members/characters aren’t worth mentioning because they pop up for a few scenes here and there. The plot is also a borderline repeat of the first film’s formula. There’s a kidnapped animal and Ace has to rescue it. Things also appear to be more complicated than he initially thought. However, WHEN NATURE CALLS drops the ball in making things too damn predictable this time around. You pretty much know who the main villain is in the first 15 minutes, so there’s not much mystery in this second “pet dick” flick.

What the film lacks in clever storytelling, it makes up for with hilarious set pieces that are far more memorable than any scene from the first film. This movie tackles immature humor and juvenile antics in a way that’s sure to elicit laughter from both adults and younger viewers. My favorite bits involve Ace having to escape from a mechanical Rhino, a “circle of death” tribal fight, and shadow puppets during the middle of an exposition dump. Those are far from the only good scenes though as the film keeps its humor constantly coming, whilst avoiding the flat bits that the first film had. Ace only speaks from his ass once and there are fewer references this time around. Again, I attribute these qualities to a better performance from Carrey and funnier writing from Steve Oedekerk. I also love this movie’s ending, because there was no ACE VENTURA 3 and viewers can interpret the conclusion in an oddly dark fashion.

ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS easily tops PET DETECTIVE. This sequel is much funnier than its predecessor, even if the plot is weaker. Laughter is what really counts in a comedy and this sequel supplies plenty of it. There are scenes that you’ll want to rewatch after you’ve seen the film, just you can cackle at them all over again. WHEN NATURE CALLS is a rare comedy sequel that surpasses the original and I rank this as the best installment in the short-lived ACE VENTURA franchise. Considering there was a three-season-long cartoon series and a child-oriented prequel that followed, the competition isn’t exactly fierce.

Grade: B

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