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Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls  
How can it get worse than 'Pet Detective'?

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Much as I disliked Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, it pains me to admit that Jim Carrey's first star vehicle was better than this hopelessly unfunny followup. Pet Detective, while being exceptionally silly and dumb (that, I suppose, was the whole point), still had its humorous moments. The same cannot be said of When Nature Calls, which, although equally moronic, left me sitting stone-faced in my seat for ninety minutes while it tried vainly to coax a laugh. There's nothing worse than a film which mistakenly believes it's the comic event of the year. For no legitimate reason whatsoever, When Nature Calls is full of itself to the point of being offensive.

In the eyes of some fans, the rubber-faced Carrey can do no wrong, and they will undoubtedly lap up When Nature Calls, then come back for seconds. This film was made for them. For the rest of us, who can endure the comedian only in small doses or when he's carefully reigned in (as in The Mask), the picture is virtually unwatchable. Like cough medicine, the taste gets worse the more you're forced to ingest.

When Nature Calls opens with an uninspired take-off of Cliffhanger (a movie that was almost a self-parody in its own right). After that, it's off to a brief interlude at a Buddhist monastery, then on to Africa, where Ace Ventura has been hired to find a stolen white bat. If he fails, the Wachatis and Wachootoos -- two stereotyped African tribes -- will go to war. Of course, Ace solves the case, but only after an inordinate number of idiotic jokes and failed sight gags. It's beyond my comprehension how a British actor of Simon Callow's (Four Weddings and a Funeral) stature can allow himself to be put through the ritual humiliation of appearing as one of Carrey's straight men (in this case, he's the bad guy). The pay check must have been handsome.

Carrey's meteoric rise started with the first Ace Ventura, so it was certain there would be a sequel. What's so surprising is how creatively barren Steve Oedekerk's movie is. When Nature Calls relies solely on Carrey's personality and performance to sustain it, which doesn't happen. The writing is sophomoric and the humor often makes Dumb and Dumber look enlightened. It's hard to imagine Carrey doing something worse than When Nature Calls, but then I previously thought he'd have a hard time lowering himself below the standards set by Pet Detective.

The phrase "answering the call of nature" commonly refers to activities involving a toilet. All things considered, that's an appropriate place to dump this latest installment of the Ace Ventura saga.

Monday, December 25, 18:03 2006 GMT

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