Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective
Directed By: David Mickey Evans
Starring: Josh Flitter, Emma Lockhart, Austin Rogers, Art LaFleur, Ralph Waite, Ann Cusack, Reed Alexander, Brian Patrick Clarke
Josh Flitter plays Ace Ventura Jr., the son of the famous pet detective who we learn has mysteriously disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle and is unlikely to be found while actor Jim Carrey's asking price remains high. Ace Jr. lives with his mother, Melissa (Cusack), who works at a zoo, but discourages Ace's obsessive tendencies to interact with the animals, particularly the dangerous ones. Ace's efforts to act more "normal" are doomed to failure when a rash of pet kidnappings seem to affect nearly every kid in his school. Things come to a head when Russell Hollander (LaFleur), an overzealous agent with the National Bureau of Fish and Wildlife arrests his mother for the kidnapping of a rare baby Panda. With the aid of his classmates Laura (Lockhart) and A-Plus (Rogers), and encouraged by the surprise revelations about his pet detecting family history from his grandfather (Waite), Ace accepts his wavy-haired brightly-clothed destiny and sets out to clear his mother's name.
This direct to video quasi-sequel to the Ace Ventura films is awful on just about every level. It is lazily plotted, unimaginatively staged, written and performed with a tin-ear for dialog, and painfully unfunny. Kids may be amused by some of Ace's anti-authority antics, but I cannot imagine they will be entertained for the whole length of the movie, and they certainly deserve better. Following the basic premise that kids love animals, one would expect the filmmakers to at least succeed in pulling together some cute animal action sequences. Unfortunately, other than a few bits with Ace's loyal dog, Oxnard, even those sequences are poorly executed, with the filmmakers somehow convinced that viewers will be more interested in an obnoxious child being obnoxious than in the animals themselves. In the case of the pandas, the puppet designs are so unrealistic that they look closer to Muppets than animals.
Central to the problem is the substitution of Josh Flitter for Jim Carrey. Rather than establishing him as a unique character with his own personality, the filmmakers unimaginatively make him little more than a faded copy of his predecessor. The juvenile Flitter is just not able to physically pull-off the strangely endearing live action cartoon character that Carrey created in the theatrical predecessors. Even as played by Carrey, the character was annoying to a significant percentage of viewers, but with this juvenile retread conceived by the filmmakers and embodied by Flitter, that annoyance ratio is likely closing in on 100%. Flitter has been successfully amusing/annoying in movies both good (Nancy Drew) and bad (License to Wed), but he is simply not capable of delivering the kind of performance required for this role, and the screenwriters and director do nothing to make his job any easier. They appear to have assumed that all they would need are the clothes and wavy hair and the character would magically appear. He never does.
The film is presented on disc via a transfer and encoding that fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. While the movie is nothing short of terrible, the transfer is above average for direct to video material. Sources flaws are non-existent, and edge ringing and other such video-realm artifacts are minimal to non-existent. The transfer is pleasingly film-like, but just a little on the soft side which is typical for material shot in super 16mm format.
The only audio option is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which also exceeded my expectations for this modestly budgeted project. The 5.1 mix is reasonably active across all 5.1 channels when appropriate if occasionally a bit dynamically compressed. The score is not especially memorable, but it is kind of fun and upbeat. The arrangements strategically, and for the most part successfully, layer "real" instruments over the typical low budget synth tracks to increase the apparent production value.
When the disc is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with the following series of skippable promos. All are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed as appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound:
- Theatrical Trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (1:41)
- DVD Trailer for The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest (:59)
- Theatrical Trailer for Inkheart (1:35)
- Warner Blu-Ray Promo (1:09)
Gag Reel (4:32) provides the expected collection of on-set goofing off, corpsing, and otherwise blowing takes.
Extended Scenes (5:35 w/"Play All") is a collection of five trimmed or deleted segments, each with their own chapter stop, although they are not selectable directly from the disc's menu. They are presented in letterboxed 4:3 video with time code information in the dead space black bars
- Extended scene at Ace's house where Hollander brags to a friend on a cell phone about how cool it is to be in cahrge of so many armed agents (:33)
- Extended introduction to A-Plus' lab with some additional backstory about how it was created(:41)
- Extended exposition scenes where Dr. Sickinger explains his disdain for Pandas before claiming that he is not the Panda-napper (1:17)
- Extended chase sequence at the Pennington estate with Pennington's bodyguards resigning (1:09)
- Extended ending with Ace receiving his next assignment from some Men in Black (1:52)
Austin and Emma (1:41) is a brief featurette focusing on the film's juvenile stars with interview comments from Flitter, Lockhart, and Rogers.
"All Play and No Work" (4:49) is a featurette consisting of lots of on-set goofing off mixing silly behind the scenes footage with a joint interview of Flitter and Director David Mickey Evans where they say silly things.
"Now Introducing...The Animals" (5:17) is a featurette on the film's various animals with comments from Animal Coordinator Mark A. Echevarria. This featurette is spoiler-heavy, so avoid until you have seen the film (or avoid both if you want to save yourself some bad DTV cinema).
"Ox the Dog" (2:49) focuses on Ace's dog, Oxnard, played by a dachshund/terrier mix named Tyler. Interview comments are offered on camera by Flitter, Lockhart, Douglas, Echevarria, and Animal Trainer Richard Wilson while director Evans offers some passing on-set remarks.
The film is presented on a single disc in a standard Amaray case.
This dismal ill-conceived direct to video sequel drives a nail in the coffin of the Ace Ventura franchise it attempts to revive. It is presented on disc with an above average audio and video presentation with a set of kid-oriented extras that are large in number but small in significance.