Though his aversion to sequels has mellowed over the years, Jim Carrey declined to return for various sequels to some of his biggest box-office hits – that didn’t stop them getting made.
In 1994, Jim Carrey had a peerless run of star-making comedy hits at the worldwide box office – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dumb And Dumber, and The Mask. The following year, he was paid a whopping $15 million to reprise his role in a sequel to the first of those, titled Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.
By most accounts (his included), this experience is what soured him on making sequels for a long time afterwards. Carrey was afforded greater creative control by Warner Bros because of the success of the first film, but he still found himself at odds with director Tom DeCerchio (who was eventually replaced by collaborator and screenwriter Steve Oedekerk at Carrey’s behest) and with producers over the sequel’s plot and tone.
It’s not that Carrey hasn’t appeared in sequels full-stop since then, having popped up in franchise movies like The Dead Pool, Batman Forever, Kick-Ass 2, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, without having been in the previous films. But when it came to sequels to some of his own films, he stayed well away for almost 20 years, up until the Farrelly brothers coaxed him back for 2014’s Dumb And Dumber To.
While promoting that film, he explained to CinemaBlend: “I find sequels are a function of commerce for the most part. At least the two I’ve done, they were characters I enjoyed doing, but I did find myself almost parroting myself at that point. When you put 10 years between you and the last time you did it, suddenly you’re going, ‘How did I do that again?’…”
For better or worse, (let’s say worse, mostly) a few projects came to fruition without the star onboard. Most of these sequels spent longer in development without Carrey on board, but none of them had When Nature Calls’ quick turnaround, and a few of them landed in the mid-2000s. Here’s how those Carrey-less sequels came about and how they fared upon release…
Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)
It took nine years for a follow-up to one of Carrey’s films to reach cinemas without his star power behind it. At some point after the first film hit big, New Line first asked writer-directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly to come up with a Dumb And Dumber prequel and they turned it down flat, pointing out that stupid 16-year-olds weren’t as funny as stupid adults.
The Farrelly brothers moved on to a string of other comedy projects, and the studio turned to another pair of up-and-coming comedy writers – Trey Parker and Matt Stone. First boarding the prequel project after the first season of South Park aired in 1997, the duo eventually gave the money they’d been paid back to New Line in 1999.
In a 2000 interview with Playboy, Parker explained: “They were really patient with us, but when the South Park movie happened, I felt like, for the first time, I could define what a Trey Parker-Matt Stone thing was. I could say, ‘Here’s what we’re about.’
“And we felt that doing Dumb And Dumber was a big step-not necessarily backward, but in a different direction, after we had worked so hard to define our style.”
Writers Troy Miller and Robert Brener were the next to have a go at the prequel, with Miller directing the result, 2003’s Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ services weren’t required for this high-school era origin story. Eric Christian Olsen and Derek Richardson play Lloyd and Harry, respectively, in a poor imitation of the original’s Farrelly-brand humour.
This one came to cinemas at the height of New Line’s success with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, complete with one of those rope-a-dope spoof teaser trailers that were popular around the time. Keeping a budget relatively close to that of the 1994 original, it earned a mere fraction of the first film’s box-office total and was panned by critics.
As mentioned, the Farrellys did persuade Carrey and Daniels back for a proper sequel in 2014. Asked about the long-forgotten prequel, Peter Farrelly told Moviefone that he’d never seen Dumb And Dumberer, but added: “I hold no ill-will against anybody in that movie. I want to make that very clear. But we just didn’t want to do it.”
Son Of The Mask (2005)
After the success of The Mask, Carrey and director Chuck Russell expressed some interest in making a sequel. At the time, that was enough for The Mask II to be officially announced in a 1996 issue of America’s Nintendo Power magazine, along with a competition for a reader to win a walk-on role in the sequel.
However, the experience of When Nature Calls soured Carrey on the idea of reprising his role, and he turned down a reported $10m salary for the sequel. And so, New Line went back to the drawing board again, and the sequel lingered in development hell for some time.
The project came back around in the early 2000s with screenwriter Lance Khazei, then hot off selling a spec script called Romantic Comedy, (still listed as in development on IMDb as of 2021) and Cats & Dogs director Lawrence Guterman bringing Son Of The Mask to the screen.
Jack Black turned down the lead role that ultimately went to Jamie Kennedy of Scream fame. Kennedy plays aspiring animator Tim Avery, who discovers the mask of Loki after his dog brings it home, puts it on to impress his boss and colleagues and then, regrettably, conceives a child with his wife while still wearing it.
The titular sprog is then born with the same powers as the mask while the actual pre-Hiddleston god of mischief (played by Alan Cumming) seeks to reclaim his mask on the orders of his father Odin (the mighty and much-missed Bob Hoskins). The only returning character from The Mask is Ben Stein’s Professor Arthur Neuman, whose opening cameo re-establishes the mask’s roots in Norse mythology.
Travelling even further from the grim-dark style of the Dark Horse comics that inspired it, Son Of The Mask is even more cartoonish than its predecessor, particularly in the VFX-heavy scenes where a super-powered baby and a Mask-wearing dog wage war on each other. But it’s also painfully unfunny and is widely considered to be one of the worst sequels ever made.
With a budget in the region of $80m to $100m, the film grossed just short of $60m worldwide and got eviscerated by critics and audiences too. Indeed, it effectively put an end to Kennedy’s movie career. If you’re interested in learning more about Kennedy’s side of the story, the actor posted some in-depth videos discussing the experience on his YouTube channel earlier this year.
As for the unlucky Nintendo Power competition winner – Nathan Ryan Runk received a bunch of Super Nintendo games, a crew jacket for The Mask II that New Line generously provided, and an official apology in the magazine’s final issue in 2012. That’s not a bad haul for not being in Son Of The Mask.
Evan Almighty (2007)
Okay, we know it’s a low bar, but Evan Almighty is probably the least terrible of the three. It also happened to be the most expensive comedy ever made at the time of release (2012’s Men In Black III would later top its whopping $175m) and thus its box-office failure made its very name a byword for unnecessary sequels for a while after.
2003’s Bruce Almighty sees Carrey play a TV news presenter who’s granted divine power by Morgan Freeman’s God, in a bid to show him how difficult taking care of creation can be. To date, it remains Carrey’s biggest box-office hit to date, and despite some trifling business over God’s phone number, Universal wanted a sequel.
The initial script for a Bruce follow-up came from Bobby Florsheim and Josh Stolberg’s screenplay The Passion Of The Ark, which was the subject of a seven-studio bidding war in 2004. Sony eventually won the script for $2.5 million and a percentage of the film’s profits.
After the success of Bruce Almighty, Universal arranged a co-production deal to convert the script into a sequel. The script was eventually discarded, and the premise used to create a new sequel script by Steve Oedekirk, who co-wrote the first film. Meanwhile, Carrey didn’t fancy playing Bruce again, so director Tom Shadyac turned to Steve Carell, another star of the first movie who’d since broken through with memorable leading roles in The 40 Year Old Virgin and the US TV remake of The Office.
Carell reprises his role as Evan Baxter, formerly a news reporter and now a US congressman, who’s called upon to re-enact the building of Noah’s Ark when Freeman’s God starts feeling smite-y. This includes building a massive wooden ship, gathering two of every animal, and growing a great big bushy beard, all while keeping his family and fellow Congressman onside with his strange antics.
Originally budgeted at $140m, the film ballooned as visual effects and set construction prices mounted up. Universal expected higher box-office returns than they usually would for a comedy due to the success of the original, but the growing price-tag eventually made Sony withdraw their funding and stake in the sequel.
For all of its expense, the film is notable as one of the first major productions of this size to offset all carbon emissions, in keeping with the film’s theme of protecting the Earth. As well as planting trees to zero out the film’s footprint, the filmmakers gave all salvageable materials from the massive ark set to Habitat For Humanity after filming was complete.
Say what you like about the film itself, which never really squares the circle of an impending second apocalyptic flood in a comic way, but at least practically speaking, Evan Almighty gives more back than it takes in time and goodwill.
Although Dumb And Dumber To was a critical disappointment, Carrey does seem to be easing up on his aversion to sequels. We’ll see him next in Sonic The Hedgehog 2, reprising his portrayal of Dr Robotnik as a sociopathic tech-bro turned megalomaniac.
Sonic writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller are also currently working on a new Ace Ventura film for Warner Bros and Amazon Prime Video. Understandably, the writers’ proximity to Carrey has got speculation going about whether or not he’ll be back in the role that turned him off sequels in the first place.
In closing, we’ll say that upon revisiting the dreaded Ace sequel with its terrible reputation and behind-the-scenes stories, When Nature Calls is scattershot, obnoxious, and twice as funny as Pet Detective – you can stick up for that first film if you like, but what was alrighty then is definitely not alrighty now…
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