Jim Carrey seeks a sketchy rescue with 'SNL'
It's hard to imagine an actor with a more peculiar career than Jim Carrey. Few comedians have succeeded in reinventing themselves so many times. And yet none seem as perpetually in a state of uncertainty.
It's a thought that came to mind when Carrey was tapped as a "Saturday Night Live" host for Jan. 8, the first time he's appearing on the show since 1996.
For many years, Carrey fluidly alternated between roles that required dramatic chops and those that made him money — "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon" sandwiched between "Liar, Liar" and "Me, Myself and Irene." Or "Eternal Sunshine of the Mind" (which earned him nominations from more than a half-dozen award groups) right after "Bruce Almighty."
But the ability to toggle has failed him lately. After 2005's "Fun with Dick & Jane," Carrey didn't do mentally unhinged very convincingly in the psychological thriller "The Number 23." After "Yes Man" two years ago, he took on a more beloved character in "A Christmas Carol." That didn't work either.
This season he's turned in one of the more eyebrow-raising performances as a gay con man in "I Love You Philip Morris," a black comedy that about six people have seen and even fewer have embraced. Carrey's trademark wild-eyed and loose-limbed acting manner is on full display, but it gets in the way more that it illuminates or entertains. "[He] never gets beyond his Jim Carrey-ness to let us discover the character," wrote The Times' Betsy Sharkey.
The "SNL" appearance seems like a pretty obvious attempt to get the actor back to his roots. He has no movie to promote ("Phillip Morris" may still be hanging on in a few theaters, barely), so it's really just about the one-time "In Living Color" star showing himself in a way that we came to like him in the first place — as a sketch comedian. (A highlight from his much-embraced first "SNL" appearance below.) And it sets the stage for another return to a safe haven, the actor's summer 2011 movie, the family comedy "Mr. Popper's Penguins."
Carrey should at least be given points for trying to tackle more interesting characters, something fellow broad-appeal comic actors like Adam Sandler don't do nearly enough. It would be a shame if the recent failures would mean Carrey stopped trying, since he clearly has skills. It's just that lately he hasn't been very good at showing them.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jim Carrey in 'I Love You Phillip Morris.' Credit: Patti Perret /Associated Press