Son of the Mask
It doesn't take much to make a movie franchise these days. Sometimes the connection between films can be as tenuous as ... a mask. Just don't look for Jim Carrey's face behind it. Now it's Jamie Kennedy (of Scream and the WB's Jamie Kennedy Experiment fame) who's making all the funny faces.
Kennedy plays Tim, an aspiring cartoonist who's petrified of having kids with his kid-crazy wife, Tonya. So, naturally, when he first dons the mask, one of the first things he does while under its influence is procreate. (He wears the mask because his dog dragged it out of a nearby stream, and his wife thinks he ought to give it a try at his company's Halloween party.) Nine months later, after watching an ultrasound of their superpowered son doing the cha-cha-cha in utero, Tim's a proud papa.
Meanwhile, Norse god Odin isn't pleased at all with his son, Loki. It's Loki's mask that's been creating all sorts of ruckus in Edge City (and now Fringe City), and Dad's not happy about it. He orders Loki to locate the mask and take it away from the humans who are misusing it. When Odin finds out a boy has been born "of the mask," he gets even angrier, and he threatens to strip Loki of all his powers if he doesn't do something about it. Tim, meet Loki. Loki, meet Tim. The two of you have quite a bit of talking to do, it seems.
Tim sermonizes about how families are the only thing worth saving in the world, and that your relationship with your family is more important than anything else. To convince his son, Alvey (who is not quite yet a toddler by film's end), to choose him over Loki, Tim takes off the mask and lets the human bond he's developed with his child do the convincing instead of using bells, whistles and flashing lights (literally).
Tonya is a devoted mom, and derives a great degree of satisfaction from raising Alvey. Tim, while more than little hesitant at first, warms up to the idea (and the reality) of having a son, and comes to value him more than his own life. Also, parents are urged to love their children and care for them even if they are "disappointments." (This final positive point comes loaded up with a bit of controversy, courtesy of the times in which we live. It's detailed in "Sexual Content.")
"Son of the Mask is ... about a magical mask created by Loki, the ancient Norse god of mischief. The mask gives anyone who wears it supernatural mischief-making powers." So say the film's creators. Need a crash course on Norse gods to keep up? Thor (you've heard of him) was the thunder god. Odin was his father, the god of war, death, wisdom and, oddly enough, poetry. Loki was actually a giant and, depending on which account you read, either Odin's adopted brother or son (in the movie he's the son). He became known as the trickster god or the god of mischief.
Onscreen, Loki shape-shifts at will, appearing most often as a fashionable, spike-haired twentysomething, but also disguising himself as a "man-faced" Girl Scout, an overweight plumber and a slick door-to-door salesman. He turns a woman's head into a giant nose, calls down a steel wall from the sky and generally uses his powers to hurt others. Odin possesses people, generates storms, shoots lightning and pulls clouds together to form his face. Alvey, humanly unable to even walk yet, runs, bounces, flies and lifts objects many times his own weight. When Tim tells Alvey, "First I'm taking you to a pediatrician, then I'm taking you to an exorcist," Alvey slowly spins his head around and vomits volumes of green slime. "My son is a devil," Tim concludes.
Elsewhere, when Loki invades a museum thinking his mask is enshrined there, a man blurts, "Good god!" Loki looks him in the eye and says, "Don't you forget it." Several times Loki exclaims, "For Odin's sake!" After magically erecting a brick wall, Loki mimics the Creator, crowing, "And Loki said, 'Let there be a brick wall,' and there was." Stripped of his "immortal powers," Loki performs a witchcraft-inspired "conjuring ceremony," complete with incantation, to summon his father.
As in The Mask, wearers of the mask (who are always male) show crude, over-the-top, bug-eyed interest in females. To spice up the company party, Tim uses his mask powers to strip women of their own clothes and instantly replace them with skimpy costumes composed of bras, super-short skirts, etc. He then compels them to dance wildly and suggestively. While still a whirling dervish under the mask's control, Tim jumps into bed with his wife. (It's implied they have sex, but nothing of their activity is shown or heard.) Later, when Tim's dog, Otis, wears the mask, the canine puts moves on a neighbor dog by wining and dining her.
According to Richard Knight's review in the Windy City Times (which claims to be the "voice of Chicago's gay, lesbian, bi and trans community since 1985"), the film's message of acceptance and love discussed in "Positive Elements" is actually one of lifestyle tolerance, customized for gays and lesbians fighting for their straight parents' approval. He names Loki a "queer in all but name" and facetiously writes, "I’m hoping that the PTA, Focus on the Family, The Culture and Family Institute, and Margaret Spellings, the new Education Secretary, fall all over themselves lining up behind this 'family' comedy and prais[ing] it to the skies. ... Because if there’s a not-so-subliminal message to this picture it’s to accept and love your kids for their differences. [Read: homosexuality] Odin has not been able to quite articulate why Loki has disappointed him but the playful, nymphet-like Loki knows why and so do we." For the record, tots (and more than few adults) won't "get" the "not-so-subliminal" parts of the movie, so they do little to detract from its positive lesson on valuing family. There are other things that do detract, though. ...
Cartoonish violence gets pretty intense, especially when Otis and Alvey both go into superpower mode while trying to knock each other off. They physically attack each other, destroying whole sections of the house as they do so. Their power struggle employs tar and feathers, a whirling ceiling fan and an old-fashioned laundry wringer (which compresses the dog down to cardboard thickness). They go so far as to hand each other disguised Looney Tunes-style bombs, hoping they'll explode. (One does, but the charred victim bounces right back just like Daffy always did.) Parents should note, though, that the thing that separates Son of the Mask from those old Warner Bros. cartoons is that here it's all life-like computer animation and slick-looking animatronics, and that ups the ante while watching a baby and a dog fighting to the death.
Other weapons used during fights are fireballs, lightning bolts, guns, TNT, and a gigantic hammer and axe. Tim and Loki engage in a supercharged boxing match. Bodies slam into (and through) walls—some of them brick. Alvey manhandles his dad, whipping him around the room like an oversized yo-yo. Chasing Tim and the baby, Loki picks up an intruding police officer and jams him, head first, into the sidewalk. (In real life, he'd be dead.) Loki creates and throws a humongous grenade at Tim and Alvey; its blast is deflected by Alvey. And he ends up kidnapping Alvey to use him as leverage for the mask. (While he's holding him captive, Loki plays violent and dangerous games with Alvey, including one in which they fire guns at each other.) Equally disturbing is a scene in which Tim attacks his wife, thinking she is one of Loki's disguises.
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses each of "d--n" and "h---"; one of "b--ched." "God" is twice used as an interjection. "Crap," "idiot," "freakin'" and "friggin'" are said several times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A girl sells cigarettes at a nightclub. Otis the dog and his "date" share drinks with their dinner.
Other Negative Elements
Gently chiding Otis for dragging the mask into the house, Tim instructs him, "If you're going to steal something, steal something with a little value." Loki's pants fail to cover up all of his backside when he morphs into a pudgy plumber. When a woman's head is turned into a nose, it blasts a huge amount of mucus onto the ground. Alvey directs multiple streams of urine at Tim, then floods him with a blast that looks like it came from a fire hose. A boy head-butts Tim's crotch; a dog bites another man's.
_"How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?" —Psalm 4:2b
"The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God." —Deut. 7:25_
Americans aren't going to start revering Odin, Thor and Loki anytime soon, of course. (We're more prone to put our faith in Leo, Julia and Mel.) And catching Son of the Mask at the multiplex is certainly not the equivalent of worshiping idols. But watching Norse gods of yore take over the big screen in a feeble attempt to entertain the youngest of children made me stop and think about where mankind used to be and where we are now when it comes to gods with little g's. It also made me spend some time looking up what God with a big G thinks about our fascination with and attraction to "other gods." (To read through the passages I did, look up 2 Chronicles 25, 1 Kings 20, Genesis 35, Exodus 15, Exodus 18, Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 4 and Joshua 24.)
Little g gods aside, I'm still forced to question the kind of entertainment we're creating for our children. Mayhem. Fear. Destruction. Kidnapping. Threats of death. Sexual leering. Potty humor. Profanity. In varying degrees, it's all in Son of the Mask. And who's watching it? At my screening, moms and dads with preschoolers in tow. And if you believe the marketing pitch for the movie, they're on the right track. The official Web site includes downloadable teachers' guides and classroom activities, stating that Son of the Mask is the perfect tutor for grade schoolers. Teachers are informed that it and its accompanying curriculum is appropriate as a "supplement to language arts and social studies classes in kindergarten through grade 4." I have only one response to that: If my daughter was in a kindergarten class that used Son of the Mask as a teaching tool, I'd start looking for a new school.
A postscript: It's especially interesting that the movie's makers and marketers are putting such a strong emphasis on reeling in youngsters, considering that part of the plot revolves around little Alvey learning how to misbehave by watching TV. Tonya has never let her baby watch the tube. But when she's gone on a business trip, Tim plops him down in front of it to get a little peace and quiet. Alvey quickly begins emulating the actions he sees flickering in front of him, and it's all downhill from there.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Jamie Kennedy as Tim Avery; Alan Cumming as Loki; Ryan Falconer as Alvey Avery; Bob Hoskins as Odin; Traylor Howard as Tonya Avery; Ben Stein as Dr. Arthur Neuman
Lawrence Guterman ( Cats & Dogs)
New Line Cinema