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celluloid relapse: ace ventura, pet detective – a how-to avoidance guide

Being a detective is supposedly synonymous with danger, glamour, devilishly handsome individuals and immeasurable intrigue. It may be a dangerous line to walk, but there is more than sufficient compensation available to those who choose to walk it. Taking this into consideration, why it is that anyone would consider the profession of a pet detective to be attractive is baffling. A normal day’s work would automatically exclude all perks and sufficient remuneration of the normal detective trade. Why then, would anyone do it?

Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) is case in point. He and his intimidating collection of heinous shirts, animal friends and unbounded self-confidence persist in the real world of mid-90s Miami, reaping next to no personal gain. Oddly enough he seems to be a happy, fulfilled individual who likes his job, which is more than many of us care to boast. Perhaps he is just deluded. In any case, this film makes very little sense right from its opening scene to a very welcome catharsis of closing credits.

Being creatures of habit, films in particular are things from which we will only depart reluctantly. Instead of branching out into different genres, eras or languages, we often have the nasty habit of dwelling on the same film or, even worse, an inferior copy of it. This type of behaviour is, friends and foes, commonly euphemised as ‘nostalgia’. Vicariously reliving certain moments of one’s youth is automatically rendered acceptable under these particular terms.

Certain films are worth such a type of treatment, this is not in contention. However, do not ever, ever, ever allow yourself be cajoled into watching a child-oriented film that you somehow missed out on. Nostalgia only works retrospectively; it cannot be fostered. Chances are that the film in question will a) be lost on you, b) be reviled by your person, and c) cost you precious minutes of your valuable existence. If not, the only other possible sentiments are anger and dismay at the fact that such a precious gem managed to escape your notice at a time where it would have been adored. No dice, no joy.

If you haven’t seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, now is not the time to undertake such an endeavour. It can be avoided! If armed appropriately with a plot summary, none need learn of this apparently abhorrent gaping hole in one’s cultural capital. Ace Ventura, as aforementioned, is a Pet Detective. This essentially means that he does very little else apart from irritating people and institutions, especially the Miami Police Department. One day his unexceptional existence is rudely disrupted when Snowflake, mascot of the Miami Dolphins, is stolen mere days before an important game. Being the only Pet Detective and thus person for the job, Ace is lead on an admirable attempt at a witty intrigue to football training sessions, a mental institution and finally, what appears to be a boat warehouse. This being an American movie, he naturally gets his ‘man’, some sort of financial reward and the community respect that he apparently deserves. Ace Ventura is the triumph of mediocrity and stupidity.

That said, knowledge as superficial as a plot summary is unlikely to utterly convince others that you have seen and understood a film. Delving more deeply into themes, camera techniques or similar baloney will provide the extra boost that such an increasingly complicated lie requires. I do this all the time for Doctor Who, subsisting on one piece of scarf trivia and knowing what a Dalek is. Many have been fooled. Such discussion also distracts others for posing subsequent questions which require more detailed knowledge. A quick name drop of Ace Ventura’s overt homophobic undertones, mockery of mental illness or ‘hilarious toilet/shark scene’ would be sufficient to steer others away from discovering a truth so horrid it is little wonder you have tried this hard to conceal it. It’s a little like hating mushrooms and pretending you like them; either make an airtight excuse for not eating them – such as an aversion to fungus induced anaphylaxis – or distract the other party with your supreme knowledge of the subject for long enough that the mushrooms themselves lie forgotten in the bottom of their pitiful paper package.

Despite all of this criticism, it is certainly evident that this film would have been greatly entertaining if seen at the appropriate age. Unlike some nostalgic gems, Hook (1991) for example, Ace Ventura falls short of being intelligent, grown-up entertainment or a warm, fuzzy experience capable of transporting you right back to your living room in 1997 Armidale. Read the synopsis, adopt someone else’s criticism, and attribute gaps in your knowledge to inevitable lapses in memory. Ace Ventura is an hour and a half of time that could be spent more discerningly. Unclogging toilets is, by comparison, more entertaining and intellectually fulfilling.

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