Jim Carrey's 5 Best Roles and 5 Directors He Should Work with Now
by Ethan Anderton
March 14, 2013
This week, audiences will see if Jim Carrey is in rare form as a rival illusionist in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and they've gotten a promising glimpse at his surprising turn in Kick-Ass 2 as Colonel Stars and Stripes thanks to the first red band trailer. While this could be a turnaround for what has been a dull period in Carrey's long career, it's been awhile since he's been at the caliber that his glory days held in the 90s. Therefore, it's time to take a look back and pick the actor's five best roles. But rather than just living in the past, there are also several directors that Carrey needs to collaborate with to keep his career fresh.
First, let's take a look back at the eclectic, funny and sometimes dramatic career of Jim Carrey. Pretty much every role Carrey has taken has at least been an interesting choice, even if the results were less than stellar. From the movies The Number 23 to I Love You Phillip Morris and familiar comedies like Liar, Liar and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, he's been all over the board. But here's the five roles we think are the best work in Carrey's lengthy career in both comedy and drama:
#5. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Honestly, it was a tough choice to determine whether this spot should be filled with Liar Liar, but it's hard to ignore the breakthrough role that launched Jim Carrey's career to becoming the funniest actor of the 90s. In the end, Liar Liar is just an extension of Ace Ventura, but it seemed to restrict Carrey just a little bit whereas Ace Ventura allowed the actor to put on a slew of different voices, show off his infamous rubber face and introduce talking out of your ass (literally) to audiences everywhere. People still throw around "Allllll righty then!" and Ace Ventura is easily one of the most iconic and recognizable comedy characters of the past 20 years.
#4. Dumb & Dumber
Though Hollywood is obsessed with sequels nowadays, a comedy that is revered and successful enough to warrant a follow-up is relatively rare. As directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly prepare to spawn a sequel sometime down the road (hopefully), there's no denying that clueless and dimwitted Lloyd Christmas is Jim Carrey's best straight-up comedy role. With an awful bowl haircut and his real chipped tooth, Carrey makes Christmas one of the most lovable losers to grace the big screen, and it's his charm and charisma that keeps him from being absolutely annoying. "We landed on the moon!"
#3. The Truman Show
Following a stream of comedies and over-the-top roles that started in 1994 with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and ended with Liar Liar in 1997 (not to mention Batman Forever and The Cable Guy letting him do something somewhat different in the middle), Carrey took a sharp turn toward the dramatic with The Truman Show. Of course, there are moments that allow Carrey to cut loose and let his wild comedic nature shine, but mostly, Carrey put on his dramatic pants, and they were sharp.
In what almost felt like a study in his life since becoming a big comedy star where he always seemed eager to entertain, the character of Truman Burbank is one who tragically is stuck being nothing but entertainment, though for him, it's real life. The film has become a poignant glimpse into the future of reality television, and it's Carrey's genuine performance and commanding screen presence that turned him into something more than just a comedian. Those final moments when Truman speaks to Ed Harris and leaves his artificial world always make me smile.
#2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
In what should have been an Oscar nominated turn, Carrey does the unimaginable by becoming an introverted, awkward, pathetic hopeless romantic. With very few moments of the Carrey audiences came to love in the 90s, the actor wows as Joel Barrish, a man struggling to hold on the memories of his once fledgling relationship with Clementine (Kate Winslet) as professional mind-wipers erase her. I think the performance is especially impressive given the frenetic nature of the narrative structure writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry present that Carrey keeps you engaged in a film that seems complicated, but it just a beautiful story of love and fate.
#1. Man on the Moon
Don't get me wrong, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is Jim Carrey's best film, but it does not contain his absolute best performance. Man on the Moon sees Carrey disappear into the role of comedian Andy Kaufman, a man ahead of his time. While working on the film, Carrey pulled a Kaufman-esque move by using method acting and staying in character as Andy Kaufman, even off the set. It's a meta element of the production given that the real Kaufman himself utilized that same technique when he would become the obnoxious lounge singer Tony Clifton.
Carrey nails the comedic elements of Kaufman's unpredictable, innovative, strange and hilarious sense of humor, not to mention all of his mannerisms and speaking style. And when he becomes Tony Clifton, all bets are off. But aside from the lighter side of Kaufman that audiences saw on stage, Carrey also captures the darker emotional side of being a misunderstood comedic genius who passed away all too soon after a fight with cancer. The performance is funny, tragic, and Carrey doesn't just impersonate Kaufman; Jim Carrey is Andy Kaufman.
Over the past decade, film roles like Mr. Popper's Penguins, Yes Man, Fun with Dick and Jane and A Christmas Carol have been lackluster. Bruce Almighty, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I Love You Phillip Morris have been brighter spots, but not really at Carrey's full potential. It's not always necessarily his fault since he gives 110% in every role, but Carrey would benefit from working with filmmakers who can bolster his talent and give him the films he deserves. There have been rumblings that Carrey is very finnicky about his performances and difficult to work with, but that's actors for you. Here are the directors that Carrey should team up with sometime soon for a boost:
Paul Thomas Anderson
The director of Magnolia and Boogie Nights took Adam Sandler and let him deliver what seems to be his best performance (though Reign Over Me might give it a run for his money) in Punch Drunk Love. So maybe it's time for Jim Carrey to get serious again and spend some time with P. T. Anderson. The filmmaker also gave a boost to Burt Reynolds in the aforementioned porno biopic, brought Joaquin Phoenix back to the big screen in The Master after a career-spiraling turn acting out for a faux documentary, turned Tom Cruise into a chauvinist pig in Magnolia and gave Daniel Day-Lewis one of his three Oscars for There Will Be Blood. Of course, it takes Anderson awhile to get his projects together, and there's no telling when he might have a role that would be perfect for Carrey, but these two need to do something together.
The guy is one of the hottest comedy directors working today, so if Carrey wants to get back on the good side of big screen laughs, he needs to work with the filmmaker who helped turn Steve Carell, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen into big screen sensations. You may not know this, but Apatow co-wrote Fun with Dick and Jane, produced The Cable Guy, and also co-produced one of Carrey's early stand-up performances in 1991. Frankly, I'm not sure why he hasn't shacked up with the director and his usual suspects for some comedy fun. Hell, Adam Sandler got to join the crew for Funny People to make fun of himself, and a movie with lots of laughs but an emotional core and heart is exactly what would let Carrey shine. Maybe the two had a falling out years ago, and that's why they haven't collaborated, but this kind of reunion feels right.
The director of Juno, Thank You for Smoking, Up in the Air and Young Adult has become a master of blending drama and comedy into a singular story with characters that have substance and feel real and genuine, even if they're not easy to relate to. Reitman has proven that he can let comedians do more than just get laughs, especially with Patton Oswalt's performance in Young Adult and Michael Cera in Juno, so Carrey would really blossom in one of his films. Honestly, with Cameron Crowe's large absence from the big screen until We Bought a Zoo, Reitman felt like a kindred spirit and almost a perfect replacement for the gap left from Crowe's absence. Reitman's storytelling style, penchant for great soundtracks and more remind me of the director without feeling like he's trying to be Crowe, and that's great.
Again, the fact that this collaboration hasn't happened is mind blowing. Anchorman: The Legend Continues feels like it would have been the perfect opportunity for Carrey to shack up with Will Ferrell and his frequent collaborator Adam McKay. Much like Judd Apatow (who produces some of McKay's work), McKay is one of the most popular comedy directors working today and he has a whole pool of great comedic talent that Carrey should be working with. Perhaps the problem is that when Carrey is being funny, he's supposed to be the center of attention, and McKay's films are funny due to an ensemble of laughs from everyone involved, but whatever the reason this hasn't happened, someone needs to change that.
After saving John Travolta's career with Pulp Fiction and most recently making Christoph Waltz a household name, maybe it's time for Carrey to get gritty and bloody with someone who is a brilliant writer and director. Hell, Tarantino just found a solid role for Jonah Hill in Django Unchained. It's a brief appearance, but it shows that he's open to some big name comedy talent for certain roles. It'd be great if Carrey could get some kind of twisted villain role or just an opportunity to become a great character in Tarantino's universe. Especially when it comes to Tarantino's more recent films, having a larger than life personality has helped immensely, and if he could have a role similar to Leonardo DiCaprio's Calvin Candie or even Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine, that would be something to behold.
So there you have it. Jim Carrey has been one of my favorite actors since his fame skyrocketed in the 90s and it's been frustrating watching him fall into roles that he brings to life rather well, but within movies that are just not up to par. Again, this isn't all his fault, but something has to give in order to get Carrey back to the once thriving level of success and quality he once possessed so many years ago. It doesn't look like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone will help much (though I won't find out for sure until this weekend), but maybe Kick-Ass 2 is a step in the right direction. What do you think about Jim Carrey's career?