All the while he is never in any danger because there is no risk of falling: he is simply playing at spoofing. But this is not Airplane -- a classic spoof comedy where every character, setting, and action in the film is designed to spoof airport genre thrillers popular at the time.
Ace is not exactly a derelict but he is outside the conventional social order: he is an outcast as far as the police are concerned. They are the ones with "real" authority -- yet, Ace does their job better than they do. He is under the suspicion of his landlord, who thinks he is housing animals in his apartment (he is). His wardrobe and hair are clownish representations of the Don Johnson Miami Vice type detective: coolness taken to a bizarre and exaggerated extreme (for example, the Hawaiian shirt, unbuttoned coupled with combat boots, clown pants and an exaggerated wave in the hair). Ace stands outside the social order. Yet, his boyishness, his never-fading smile, and his sureness make him seem justified in being outside the social order. He almost seems to be making the case that it is not he who is somehow inhuman but rather everyone else who is inhuman. This is apparent in the person of Sgt. Aguado, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to try to ridicule Ace. Of course, Ace always gets the upper hand and makes Aguado look like the stupid one, but that doesn't keep Aguado from trying every chance he gets. Is Aguado merely there to show how Ace is really cleverer than he looks? Possibly. But part of the detective genre is that the detective and the cops be on opposing sides, and this tradition is respected in the film.
What is perceived as comedy in modern days in this particular movie is the absolute rejection of Ace of any sort of social convention (he drives with his head out the window because he cannot afford to fix his windshield; he wears clothing that might get anyone else committed; he walks with a strut that seems to be on steroids; he talks out of his butt at some moments; he defies authority and does so with great tenacity, showing off his superior intellect). In short, Ace is an ace, just not one in 1994 would be used to seeing: he is brought to life by Carrey's slapstick ability and perfect charm and confidence. He delivers the one-liners with skill ("Ventura!" grumbles the landlord. Ace responds without looking, "Yes, Satan!" turns, sees the landlord and says, "Oh, sorry, I thought you were someone else!" all the while maintaining a face of playfulness: he is having as much fun as the audience). That said, it should be noted that Ace and the average teenaged-boy in 1994 would have shared an alliance: both Carrey and his audience are in on the joke. They revel together in the overturning of human respect.
Ebert suggested (and was right) in his 1994 review of the film that Ace will appeal to a certain culture -- the adolescent culture. But does this mean only adolescents will find the film funny? Not at all. Every adult was once an adolescent and the film may happily return the adult to that carefree, innocent stage of life, when goofiness was funny because it was so different from the automatic, strait-laced way of life that adulthood foretold. Ebert fails to appreciate the joke and admits it: one wonders why his soul is so ruffled. Can he not appreciate goofiness? Does he lack the serenity that one requires to laugh? He states:
"The movie basically has one joke, which is Ace Ventura's weird nerdy strangeness. If you laugh at this joke, chances are you laugh at Jerry Lewis, too, and I can sympathize with you even if I can't understand you. I found the movie a long, unfunny slog through an impenetrable plot. Kids might like it. Real little kids" (Ebert).
The irony is that Ebert is exactly the kind of figure being ridiculed by Ace: the stuffy, pretentious sort who does not know how to be like a kid again. Ebert certainly has his good points just as Ron the millionaire has in the film, but neither has a sense of humor or knows how to be a child after Carrey's extraordinary fashion. Courtney Cox's character appreciates Ace's antics in spite of herself: she sees that he is well-meaning, able, witty and charming after all.
The film does find humor in making fun of stereotypes, particularly homosexuals and transsexuals. At one point, Ace is trying to find the culprit by locating the AFC championship ring missing a stone. He must inspect the rings of all players of the Miami team, an effort which brings him to a public restroom. Leaning across the urinal to see the ring hand of the football player beside him, he gives the impression that he is leering at the man's penis. One expects Ace to be beaten up by the football player. Instead, the football player grins and daintily chases after Ace.
or there is the problem of Lt. Einhorn (one horn -- a euphemism that suggests the penis she has tucked between her legs). She is played by Sean Young; the twist is that she is not a woman but rather the deranged Ray Finkle. Finkle has had a pseudo-sex change and is masquerading as a woman. This twist is hardly logical or at all very pleasant. It will be appreciated only by boys who will enjoy seeing Ace tear open Sean Young's blouse in order to expose the fact that she has no breasts (she does).
The jokes that come at the expense of this transsexual, however, are plentiful. Earlier in the film, Einhorn attempts to seduce Ace in order to throw him off the track. Ace repels her but not before escaping with a kiss. When Ace realizes that Einhorn is Finkle and not a woman, he descends into a montage of funny scenes: he burns his clothes, empties a bottle of toothpaste into his mouth, uses a plunger on his face in order to get himself to vomit, sheds his clothes and showers, collapsing in the stall like one who has been victimized. He is clearly getting laughs from the idea that he has been kissed by a man. The gay stereotype is mocked.
Today, few Hollywood movies so openly mock homosexuality. In Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby and the Frenchman openly kiss with tongue on the race course in order to show that they are friends. It is a weird display of affection since Ricky Bobby is not homosexual and, in fact, has expressed his dislike of homosexuals. This demonstration is his way of burying the hatchet, so to speak, and getting over his prejudice. This sort of kissing, however, is exactly what Ace is mocking. Ace finds such display revolting -- and so too is an audience in 1994. However, twenty years of cultural conditioning has helped to convince audiences that the mocking of stereotypes of this sort is unacceptable. Laughing at homosexuality is taboo today. One wonders if Ace, were it released today, would be as popular with audiences as it was then: probably not.
The question of emotion never becomes important in the comedy equation of this movie. Carrey never stops spoofing and therefore never gives the audience a chance to become overly-involved in the plight of the animals or the characters. The action gallops to a giddy finale. Pity is out of the question. (for a moment, it is true, one may feel sorry for Roger who has been thrown from his high-rise balcony, but Carrey's solving of the case brings us instantly back to laughter: our hero is able to set emotions aside and encourages us to do the same, just as Bergson recommends). The intent and purpose of the shtick, of course, is to get the audience to loosen up. Ace is not breaking boundaries. He is only playing up types and getting us to laugh at pretensions. He is playing up the uber-masculine detective type, the hyper-active child type, the socially-rejected outcast type, and the heart of gold, lover of all things good type. The fact that he does it all with the grace and finesse of a Jerry Lewis is what makes it successful. Carrey is a natural comic with an ability to make us laugh by the sheer fact that he is at once both good looking, charming, goofy, straight, and capable of morphing into random personalities at will.
Is it fair, however, to say that Jim Carrey is deadly serious? Not in this film. He is having too much fun and the film itself is not a deadly serious one -- not in the way a satire would be. Ace is not a satire, just a vehicle for Carrey's ability to…