Dir: Lawrence Guterman.US. 2005. 86mins.
A decade after the aggressively manic original helped make Jim Carrey astar, New Line's family-oriented sequel to The Mask tries to make up forCarrey's absence by adding warm and fuzzy elements to the cartoonish,CG-enhanced (and still pretty in-your-face) comedy.

It's a logical approach to abelated sequel: plenty of the moviegoers who turned the original comicbook-based film into a hit will now identify with the sequel's story of anxiousnew parents and their mischievous baby. But it's an approach that's onlypartially successful and that may not be enough to give Son Of The Mask- whose effects are not as impressive as the original's were at the time andwhose humour never rises above kiddie level - more than a short theatrical runfollowed by a decent take from the home video market.

The sequel has its first internationalopening, in the UK this weekend (via Entertainment), a week ahead of the USlaunch. The original did extremely well internationally - grossing $224m,compared to $120m in the US - and some more recent comparable films (Garfield,Cats & Dogs, Scooby Doo 2) have also played well outside theStates. But in this case some of New Line's international distributors may findthe brash comedy a tricky sell, and they probably won't find much marquee valuein star Jamie Kennedy (reasonably well known in the US for his eponymousreality TV show).

In the US, where it willcarry a PG rating, the sequel will benefit from its trailer-friendly elements -including a singing and dancing baby and a cartoon-style dog - but may sufferbecause of theatrical competition from several other family and children'sfilms in the marketplace. The prospects will certainly be better when the filmhits DVD stores.

Slightly less downtroddenthan Carrey's Stanley Ipkiss, Kennedy's Tim Avery is a boyish aspiringcartoonist (the name is a nod to animation great Tex Avery) whose beloved dogone day brings him the legendary Mask of Loki. Transformed by the Mask into agreen-skinned hipster, Tim wows the company Halloween party and that nightunexpectedly conceives a child with his more grown-up wife Tonya (Howard, from Me,Myself And Irene).

Baby Alvey turns out to haveMask-bestowed morphing skills without having to actually wear the Mask. Thatattracts the animosity of Tim's jealous dog, which sometimes uses the Mask tomatch the baby's abilities, and of Loki (Cumming, in Spy Kids mode), theNorse god who has come to Earth to reclaim his property.

Director Lawrence Guterman,who directed parts of Antz before making his fully-fledged debut with Cats& Dogs, shoots the film (made mostly in Australia's Fox Studios) tolook like a live action cartoon, with lots of odd angles and extreme close-ups.The primary colour scheme adds to the live-animation feel, as do the effects,which turn Mask-wearers - Tim, Loki and the dog all get to try it at one timeor another - into green-faced cartoon characters and baby Alvey into arubber-limbed, and sometimes rather creepy looking, mayhem machine.

The resulting physicalcomedy is mostly frenetic slapstick that gets wearing pretty quickly. Thenon-physical humour is mostly poo, pee or snot-based stuff aimed squarely atyounger kids.

The serious parenting themehas Tim, who at the start of the story isn't ready for a child, struggling tobalance fatherhood with his career goals, and Loki, son of Odin (an unrecognisableBob Hoskins) occasionally getting ticked off from the heavens by hisdisappointed dad. There's nothing particularly involving in the dramaticstoryline but there are one or two quite sweet moments between the two fathersand their sons.

Kennedy (seen on the bigscreen in Malibu's Most Wanted as well as the first two Screammovies) plays Tim as an overgrown kid and the act is often more grating thancute. Cumming puts an appealing energy into his performance but famously drystand-up comedian Steven Wright is wasted as Tim's animator boss.
Prod cos: Radar Pictures, Dark Horse Entertainment
US dist:
New Line Cinema
Int'l sales:
New Line
Exec prods:
Toby Emmerich, Kent Alterman, Michele Weiss, Beau Marks,Mike Richardson
Erica Huggins, Scott Kroopf
Lance Khazei
Greg Gardiner
Prod des:
Leslie Dilley
Malcolm Campbell, Debra Neil Fisher
Visual effects supervisor:
James E Price
Costume des:
Mary E Vogt
Randy Edelman
Main cast:
Jamie Kennedy, Alan Cumming, Traylor Howard, Steven Wright,Kal Penn, Bob Hoskins