Our generation's Jerry Lewis, only not as cringe-inducing or overtly misogynistic. First appearing on TV in 1993, the rubber-faced Canadian established himself as one of the nation's top comedians on the sketch show In Living Color (not an easy task for anyone, let alone a lanky, malnourished white dude).
But it wasn't until 1994's Ace Ventura Pet Detective-in which he played a pet detective named, wait for it, Ace Ventura-that Carrey placed himself in Steve Martin territory. Shortly afterwards, he starred in one of the best (and most hilariously over-quoted) comedies of all time, Dumb & Dumber, securing his status as a comedy icon and going on to star in classics like The Cable Guy and Liar, Liar.
When a casting agent says to himself, "For this poorly-written drama, I'd like a former comedian who used to act all crazy and coked-out on stage, but now stars in a shitty, wannabe tear-jerker every 15 months for a big payday, but isn't as old and dumb as Robin Williams," Carrey is there to answer.
There have been exceptions, like shitty, wannabe comedies (Bruce Almighty, Fun With Dick and Jane) and non-shitty, wannabe Oscar-winners (Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Man on The Moon), but no one has cry-laughed at a Jim Carrey movie since 2000, when his role in the Farrelly brothers's Me, Myself & Irene narrowly accomplished that feat.
In 1998, with his brilliant performance in the vastly underrated sci-fi-romantic-comedy-surreal-fable-drama-adventure-satire, The Truman Show. After that film's success, Carrey (or at least his handlers) was convinced that he should continue to tackle drama, and he started taking on particularly unfunny roles.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas? The Majestic? Lemony Snicket's A Series of PG Crap? What the hell? Jim Carrey's foray into the non-comedic is disturbingly similar to Michael Jordan's foray into baseball-why would someone so talented abandon their art?
Because they're selfish, fan-hating pricks, that's why. (Okay-maybe not. We just hope Carrey follows Jordan's lead and comes back to his real calling.)
After last year's revolting "comedy," Dick and Jane, Carrey took some time off to regroup and enjoy all the piles of money he made from going dramatic. He'll return this February, in Joel Schumacher's thriller, The Number 23, as a man who's consumed by a novel telling the story of his life and ending with-dun, dun, dun-a murder! (23's plot sounds astoundingly similar to that of Will Ferrell's next film, December's Stranger Than Fiction).
With this project, it's pretty clear that Carrey's given up on being funny. But if he can return to Truman Show form (or even Eternal Sunshine form), he'll do what Robin Williams hasn't: establish himself a consistently good dramatic actor.