(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
All Jim Carrey Movies Ranked by Tomatometer
Earth Girls Are Easy sounds like one of those debased projects that occur either at the beginning of a career, out of naivete, or at the end of one, out of desperation. But we doubt Jim Carrey looks back on the 1988 comedy with embarassment, and probably not his co-stars Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans, and Geena Davis either. It’s silly, it’s Fresh, and it helped Carrey land In Living Color. And that show helped make the man who would talk out of his ass on the big screen, to the delight of millions. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective made over $100 million, and that was the lowest-grossing of Carrey’s comedies that year, behind Dumb & Dumber and The Mask.
After that breakout in 1994, Carrey was locked and loaded to be the manic centerpiece of 1995’s summer blockbuster event: Playing the Riddler in Batman Forever. The comic book caper was the highest-grossing movie of the year… the same couldn’t be said about 1996’s The Cable Guy, Carrey’s first box office bomb. Fret not: He sprung back in 1997 with Liar Liar, and The Truman Show in 1998.
Part of Carrey’s early enduring quality was a subtle sensitivity hiding beneath the flailing limbs and facial contortions, and the sudden pathos that could erupt from his oddball characters. Carrey began displaying this knack for drama more nakedly in serious projects like Man on the Moon, where he transformed into his comedy idol Andy Kaufman, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the most memorably melancholic romance of recent decades. Of course, Carrey continued to crowd-please with slapstick like Fun With Dick and Jane, Bruce Almighty, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Yes Man.
After a quiet decade pursuing personal hobbies and middling movie work, Carrey spin-dashed into the 2020s with Sonic the Hedgehog, playing iconic villain Dr. Robotnik (see where it landed on the video game movies list). Today, though, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Cable Guy, which rebounded from its lowly box office performance to become a cult classic. See where it ranks in his filmography as we rank Jim Carrey movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Jim Carrey's twitchy antics and gross-out humor are on full, bombastic display in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which is great news for fans of his particular brand of comedy but likely unsatisfying for anyone else.
Synopsis: When the dolphin mascot of Miami's NFL team is abducted, Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey), a zany private investigator who specializes... [More]
Critics Consensus: Fittingly fleet and frequently fun, Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game-inspired adventure the whole family can enjoy -- and a fine excuse for Jim Carrey to tap into the manic energy that launched his career.
Synopsis: The world needed a hero -- it got a hedgehog. Powered with incredible speed, Sonic embraces his new home on... [More]
Critics Consensus: Although it softens the nasty edges of its source material, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a gothic visual treat, and it features a hilariously manic turn from Jim Carrey as the evil Count Olaf.
Synopsis: After the three young Baudelaire siblings are left orphaned by a fire in their mansion, they are carted off to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman's smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry's equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.
Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)... [More]
Critics Consensus: A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, The Truman Show is all the more noteworthy for its remarkably prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives.
Synopsis: He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive... [More]
Never bet against Jamie Foxx, who plays a Las Vegas cop on a search-and-destroy mission to save his kidnapped son in new thriller Sleepless. Beware criminal crooks, or you’ll craps your pants! Yep, it’s just another day in the wild ways of Vegas, inspiring this week’s 24 Frames gallery: an all-you-can-watch buffet of best and worst movies (with at least 20 reviews) set mostly to wholly in Sin City!
Rating: PG-13, for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image.
Yet another White-House-under-siege movie? So soon? Just a few months after the release of Olympus Has Fallen, our nation’s capital once again is being attacked on screen. The difference is, that film was rated R, so you saw the physical consequence of massive gun battles. The PG-13 White House Down has the kind of insane violence you’d expect from director Roland Emmerich — both up-close-and-personal shootings in close quarters and barrages of automatic gunfire from the skies — but with barely any blood. It’s just as numbing but not nearly so gruesome. More troubling to me, as a mom, was watching Joey King, as Channing Tatum’s 11-year-old daughter, being used as a pawn — seeing her roughed up by bad guys, including having a gun placed to her head several times. She’s a tough girl capable of standing up for herself, but the extent to which the villains abuse her as a source of audience thrills seemed gratuitous and made me uneasy. Whether or not these images disturb older kids, they’ll likely bother their parents. Also: Jamie Foxx, as the Obamaesque president, drops the one F-bomb you get with a PG-13 rating.
Rating: Unrated but contains language and smoking.
This documentary is actually a great choice for kids this week, especially if they’re into music or are aspiring performers themselves. It traces the origins of a long-forgotten band called Death, hence the title: three black, teenage brothers from Detroit who pioneered the punk sound in the early 1970s, long before the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. Their songs completely rock and stand up with just as much vibrancy and vitality today. But the story of how they taught themselves to play in their modest home, worked tirelessly to perfect their sound and hustled to get their music out to the world is a terrific lesson for young people — especially those for whom American Idol is the standard for achieving success.
Rating: PG-13, for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.
Steve Carell pulls off the seemingly impossible feat of being unlikable as an arrogant Las Vegas magician whose longtime act has grown outdated and unpopular. Jim Carrey, as a gonzo, Criss Angel-style street performer with a cable TV show called “Brain Rapist,” steals his spotlight and his audience. His stunts are outrageously over-the-top: ridiculous stuff like sleeping overnight on hot coals and holding his urine for several days straight. In theory, it’s all too cartoonish to give your kids any ideas, but who knows? Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have that talk with them about not trying this stuff at home. Especially if you have boys.
This week on home video, we’ve got a wacky comedy about Las Vegas magicians, an abduction thriller, and a star-crossed sci-fi romance. Then, we also have a Cold War submarine movie, a smart historical drama, and a number of Blu-ray “steelbook” rereleases. See below for the full list.
On paper, the idea of casting Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as partners in a Vegas magic act sounds like a winning proposition. Throw in Jim Carrey as a dark, Criss Angel-like street magician, Alan Arkin as a retired illusionist, and Olivia Wilde as the lovely assistant with a few tricks of her own — as well as a brief supporting turn from the late James Gandolfini — and it boggles the mind how The Incredible Burt Wonderstone ended up with a 37% Tomatometer. Carell plays the titular Burt, who forged a lifelong friendship with another awkward kid when the two of them discovered magic. Now, as Burt and his partner Anton (Buscemi) struggle to keep their stale Vegas act relevant, Burt’s inner diva drives the two friends apart, and he must return to his roots in order to make a triumphant comeback. Burt Wonderstone has a few laughs, but most critics were hoping for something a little sharper than what it had to offer. The premise is rich with potential, but the story opts instead to play it safe, and the end result is disappointingly tame and predictable, considering the talent involved.
Director Brad Anderson has proven in the past that he’s capable of crafting effective tension and smart thrills, with films like Session 9, The Machinist, and Transsiberian. Critics say his latest film, the Halle Berry-powered The Call, almost gets it right before falling apart. Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) used to field 9-1-1 calls for the LAPD, but after a tragic kidnapping gone wrong, she opted to train others instead. When another abducted teenager (Abigail Breslin) calls from the trunk of a car, Jordan instinctively jumps on the call and soon finds she may be facing someone from her past. Critics say Anderson does a fairly decent job of ratcheting up the tension, but the plot is ultimately so implausible — especially the final act — that it loses much of its steam. At 41% on the Tomatometer, The Call has a few nice touches from a genre veteran, but it may not hold up under scrutiny.
Lately, Jim Sturgess seems to be drawn to ambitious sci-fi projects like last year’s epic Cloud Atlas and, more recently, Upside Down, a story about star-crossed love that takes place on twin planets that exist so close to each other that their inhabitants experience dual gravity. Here, Sturgess plays Adam, an orphan from the poorer “Down” planet who meets and falls in love with Eden (Kirsten Dunst), whose wealthier “Up” planet prohibits interaction with those from Down. When tragedy separates the young couple from each other, Adam spends his time perfecting a product that will equalize gravity between the two planets and potentially reunite him with his lost love. If the physics of it all seems a little difficult to wrap your head around, that’s alright; the film is clearly less interested in how scientifically plausible its concepts are. Unfortunately, critics mostly thought that Upside Down‘s script left quite a bit to be desired as well; at 29% on the Tomatometer, there’s plenty of visual wizardry on display here, but little else in the way of effective drama or characters to provide a compelling reason for the spectacle.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain has found great success setting his previous films (Tony Manero, Post Mortem) against the backdrop of his country’s civil unrest during the Augusto Pinochet era. With his latest feature, No, Larrain delves directly into the politics of Pinochet’s rule, setting the story in 1988, just before the end of the dictator’s reign. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Rene, an ad man who’s approached by anti-Pinochet activists to help market their campaign; with government authorities pressuring him and his family, Rene puts together a daring proposal in hopes of ousting the dictator and bringing democracy to Chile. Though it only saw a fairly limited release, No earned glowing reviews from most critics, who called it a smart, surprisingly funny, and poignant film that provides a perspective on democracy not often explored. Don’t let its historical context deter you; Certified Fresh at 92%, No is a thoughtful drama that further cements Pablo Larrain’s credentials as a solid filmmaker.
The tagline for Cold War submarine thriller Phantom is “You’ll Never See It Coming,” which is ironically appropriate since hardly anyone watched it, and most of you reading this probably forgot it even existed. Inspired by a true story (aren’t they all?), Phantom stars Ed Harris as Captain Dmitri “Demi” Zubov, commander of a Soviet nuclear sub, who takes on one final top secret mission before retirement. When a shadowy KGB agent (David Duchovny) accompanies his crew and ultimately reveals the nefarious true purpose of the operation, Demi must retake control of the vessel in order to avert an all-out war. Despite a solid cast, which included supporting turns by Lance Henriksen and William Fichtner, Phantom was content to retread familiar themes from other, better films of its ilk (The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, etc). The story lacks the necessary tension and taut narrative to make for an engaging thriller, and so it sits at a mediocre 25% on the Tomatometer.
Also available this week:
In the Family (96%), a drama about a gay man who must make peace with his “in-laws” when his partner dies in an accident and the extended family is given custody of his son.
The Criterion Collection releases another important film: French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann’s unflinching Holocaust documentary Shoah (100%), which also includes three additional films by Lanzmann, a few interviews, and other extras.
Some of the other notable Blu-ray Steelbook releases out this week include: the Firefly movie Serenity (82%), Brian DePalma’s Scarface (89%), and the Beatles’ Help! (91%).
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has such a can’t-miss premise — kitschy, arrogant magicians hit rock bottom — that it’s sad to report the critics find it less than magical, a collection of decent gags that never finds an effective rhythm. Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi star as outlandish Vegas stage magicians whose popularity is threatened by big egos, personal animosity, and the rise of a hip street magician (Jim Carrey). The pundits say The Incredible Burt Wonderstone serves up some goofy laughs, but for such an outrageous conceit, it’s surprisingly safe and predictable. (Check out our interviews with stars Carell and Olivia Wilde, as well as this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Buscemi’s best-reviewed movies.)
There’s no shortage of thrillers that create tense scenarios but can’t quite tie everything together to a satisfying whole. Such is the case, critics say, with The Call, which builds plenty of suspense before taking a problematic turn in the third act. Halle Berry stars as Jordan, a 911 operator who becomes wracked with guilt after failing to help a young woman who calls her in the midst of a home invasion. After returning to her post months later, she gets a similar call, and attempts to thwart the attacker. The pundits say The Call nicely ratchets up the tension until a key point in which credibility is seriously strained. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a look at Berry’s career in pictures.)
What’s it about? Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi star as outlandish Vegas stage magicians whose popularity is threatened by big egos, personal animosity, and the rise of a hip street magician (Jim Carrey).
Who’s it for? It’s rated PG-13 for “sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.” The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is a little raunchy in spots, though its violence is mostly slapsticky; 13-year-olds should be fine.
Is it any good? Critics say The Incredible Burt Wonderstone serves up some goofy laughs, but for such an outrageous conceit, it’s surprisingly safe and predictable.
What’s it about? In this animated feature from DreamWorks, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, and other folkloric types team up to battle a nightmare-purveying baddie named Pitch.
Who’s it for?Rise of the Guardians is rated PG “for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.” Kindergarteners and above will probably be able to handle it, though the film does demystify its protagonists, which might be troubling to more sensitive children.
Is it any good? Critics say the little ones will probably like it just fine, and that their guardians will probably be mildly amused as well. It’s got some solid gags and terrific visuals.
What’s it about? A guy survives a shipwreck only to end up in a lifeboat with a tiger.
Who’s it for? It’s rated PG “for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.” It will almost certainly bore little kids, but it should be fine for eighth graders up.
Is it any good? Critics say Life of Pi is visually masterful and philosophically intriguing; it’s the type of thing that could entrance thoughtful teenagers.
He hasn’t always played the nicest characters, but both onscreen and off, Steve Buscemi has always come across as a pretty interesting person — a gifted thespian, talented director, and former firefighter who helped clear rubble from the World Trade Center after 9/11, he’s one ubiquitous character actor whose Hollywood success doesn’t seem to have turned him into anything other than a regular guy from Brooklyn. Of course, in this weekend’s The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, he’s anything but regular… which is why we decided we couldn’t miss the opportunity to dedicate a list to some of Buscemi’s best-reviewed roles. It’s time for Total Recall!
Allegedly inspired by writer/director Tom DiCillo’s less-than-wonderful experiences on the set of the early Brad Pitt picture Johnny Suede, 1995’s Living in Oblivion starred Buscemi as a put-upon director whose struggles with his emotionally distraught crew (including Dermot Mulroney as the director of photography) and exasperating cast (including Catherine Keener as his difficult leading lady and James LeGros as the buffoonish, possibly Pitt-derived leading man) make it difficult for him — and the audience — to keep track of what’s illusory and what’s real. “So you wanna make a movie?” asked the Washington Post’s Hal Hinson. “Well, first, you should see Living in Oblivion, Tom DiCillo’s savagely funny satire of the world of independent filmmaking.”
Buscemi picked up his first Independent Spirit Award nomination for his supporting work in this Jim Jarmusch anthology film consisting of three loosely connected stories — one of which found Buscemi sharing screen time with Joe Strummer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and the decade’s most in-depth discussion of Lost in Space not involving Matt LeBlanc. “The three-part structure of Mystery Train is still a bit shambling and slight,” admitted Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, “but there’s an undeniable air of deadpan cool that permeates the film and gives it a haunting sense of place.”
One on a growing list of 21st century films about American war that American audiences have largely ignored, 2009’s The Messenger takes the mounting costs of our conflicts and gives them unforgettably human faces — including Will Montgomery and Tony Stone (played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) as soldiers tasked with delivering casualty notifications to survivors, and Steve Buscemi as a father whose awful grief helps lend the film its gut-punching power before giving it an unexpected twist. “This is a wholly different look at the fallout of the Iraq War and its effect on soldiers and civilians,” offered USA Today’s Claudia Puig. “It is also a gentle portrait of grief, friendship and solace.”
Generally speaking, we tend to avoid including cameos and smallish roles in these lists, but those rules are bent when it comes to actors like Buscemi, who can steal an entire movie with little more than a few moments on the screen. One of his more memorable minor parts: Chet the bellhop in Barton Fink, a barely-seen character whose friendliness to Fink (John Turturro) adds a bit of light to an oft-gloomy Coen brothers picture that uses the uneasy partnership between art and commerce as a backdrop for a surreal drama about sex, lies, and a shotgun-toting John Goodman. Calling the end result “Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird,” Time’s Richard Schickel lauded it as “the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through.”
The gangster drama whose stubborn script eventually prompted the desperate break that birthed Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing blended well-worn genre formula with the Coen brothers’ signature style — and gave Steve Buscemi an early break with the brief but pivotal role of Mink Larouie, a bookie whose illicit affairs draw him into a gang war that proves deadly (giving the Coens the first of many opportunities to cause Buscemi’s on-screen death). “While Miller’s Crossing is not as messy or inspired as Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas, or as richly suggestive as The Godfather, it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do,” mused John Hartl for Film.com.
1992 was really Buscemi’s year at Sundance — not only did he make a big splash as part of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, but he was also an integral part of Alexandre Rockwell’s highly regarded In the Soup, an offbeat low-budget dramedy about a struggling screenwriter (Buscemi) who desperately teams up with a con man (Seymour Cassel) in order to find financial backing for his meandering 500-page script. Unfortunately overshadowed by some of the higher-profile festival favorites of the year, Soup remained a critical favorite for writers like Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson, who admitted, “Yes, it’s an old story that has been told a thousand times before and since, but Alexandre Rockwell’s little film has a home movie charm and a streetwise wit that make it a must-see sleeper.”
Buscemi’s ability to imbue even the most unlikable characters with some shred of humanity (think Garland Green in Con Air) has made him a favorite for directors who need someone to play a multi-dimensional cretin. A notable exception: Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, a bleakly funny adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic book about a pair of teenage misfits (Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch) whose casually mean-spirited prank on a lonely middle-aged man (Buscemi) has unforeseen consequences on their friendship. A cult and critical favorite, Ghost World resonated with scribes like Angie Errigo of Empire, who wrote, “This is ‘teen comedy’ of startling sophistication — with horribly funny bits as well. A true original, with sharp humour, subtle detail and painfully realistic characters.”
After filming small-but-pivotal parts in the Coen brothers’ Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink, Buscemi was rewarded with a role written specifically for him in their 1996 breakthrough, Fargo. A seven-time Academy Award nominee (and two-time winner) that now resides in the National Film Registry, it tells the increasingly unpleasant tale of a car dealership manager (William H. Macy) who tries to get out from under his financial woes by hiring a pair of small-time crooks (Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can fool his wealthy father-in-law into paying the ransom. A grisly comedy of errors ensues, with the kidnappers leaving a trail of death in their wake and a tenacious cop (Frances McDormand) in hot pursuit. “To watch it is to experience steadily mounting delight,” smiled Roger Ebert, “as you realize the filmmakers have taken enormous risks, gotten away with them and made a movie that is completely original, and as familiar as an old shoe.”
A heist movie without the heist — but with a far sharper (as well as gorier and more profane) script than most movies of its kind, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs helped kick off the indie film boom of the 1990s with a tightly wound, beautifully cast look at what happens when a group of really bad guys try to pull off a big score and it all goes wrong. Working with a scarily talented group of character actors, Tarantino — who was making his feature debut — made it count by giving Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and Buscemi (as the weaselly Mr. Pink, a role Tarantino originally planned to take for himself) some of the most memorable scenes of their careers. “It’s unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it,” admitted the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, “but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes.”
It’s always a bit of a disappointment when an animated film ends up at the top of an actor’s Total Recall list — and we know more than a few of you think voice roles shouldn’t count at all — but if it has to happen, then it might as well be a movie as wonderful as Monsters, Inc. Starting from a rich premise (what if the monsters in your kid’s closet are real…and they’re scared too?), Pixar’s fourth feature used its universal concept as the framework for a thoughtful, ecologically conscious rumination on the journey from childhood to adulthood. Plus, it was exciting and really funny, thanks to a stellar voice cast that included Billy Crystal and John Goodman (as monster pals Mike and Sulley), James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, and (of course) Steve Buscemi as the nasty monster Randall Boggs. It all added up to a massive box office hit — and a movie that, in the words of Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Times, acts as “A marvelous combination of lollipop visuals, brilliant screenwriting, sharp comedic timing and, above all, overflowing amounts of heart.”
In case you were wondering, here are Buscemi’s top 10 movies according to RT users’ scores:
Sequins. Dramatic lighting. Top hats. Magic. You will find all of these things in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opening March 15th. Grae Drake slapped on something shiny and abracadabra’d around with Steve Carell, Olivia Wilde, and screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.
Note: you had better have an enchanted notebook, or you’ll suffer the same wrath that Steve Carell had to face.