Is it dumb? Well, it's definitely low-brow, but it also has some gags that are undeniably clever. Is it racist? Yeah, a little, but it's also satirizing old stereotypes about "Dark Africa." Is it immature and and gross and sophomoric and over-the-top? Yes. Yes, it is.
But someone (well, me) once said the only thing comedies have to be is funny. And this movie is dang funny. Need I remind anybody of the scene where Ace insists on dropping a slinky down the hundreds of steps leading up to a Buddhist temple? ("It was RIGHT there!") Or the slideshow in which Ace's hand appears to greedily devour a poacher's crotch? That's just hilarious!
The great thing about this movie is that it doesn't settle for outlandish set-ups that only seem to be jokes. This movie gets full bang for its comedic buck. Do we have a fight with a crocodile presented in-and-of-itself as humor? No! In a lesser film, perhaps. But Ace Ventura goes the extra mile, bringing us childish schoolyard taunts ("Stop hittin' yourself! Stop hittin yourself!") And is it enough to have Ace chasing the villain through the jungle in a monster truck? No - he actually pulls up next to him and utters a bon mot worthy of Groucho. Also, where did that monster truck come
from?! The sheer resolve not to explain the truck's presence is a sublimely satirical dig at movies that might place monster trucks in the jungle just for cheap, lazy wackiness.
This movie is anything but lazy. Jim Carrey, like no actor before him, pulls out all the stops as Ace Ventura. Is he milking things? Oh sure. He's milking things like Paganini milked the violin, or like Michelangelo milked the Sistine Chapel. He's inventing a manic persona so complete and fully realized, that it transcends standard comedy and achieves something mystical and poetic and truthful. And that's how it keeps from being annoying.
This film is too casually dismissed because it looks like a terrible movie. I was hesitant to watch it. But maybe, years and years from now, it will achieve the kind of subversive cult-film status it deserves.