Maybe a more accurate title would have been "Ace Ventura: Take the Money and Run," as this sloppy, incoherent sequel seems to have blown its entire budget on Jim Carrey's $10 million salary.
"Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" relies almost entirely on Carrey's physical antics and grotesque mugging, as well as the expected bodily function jokes, which include vomiting, spitting, urinating, masturbating, flatulence and just about anything else most of us would rather keep private.
In fact, there is such desperation here that Carrey and writer-director (and Carrey's pal) Steve Oederkerk even forget their target audience from time to time. Will the 12-year-olds who dominate the audience get the R-rated movie spoofs (the film opens with a "Cliffhanger" sendup) or verbal references to old TV programs (Carrey does a William Shatner imitation that relates to a "Twilight Zone" episode)?
On the other hand, even if they don't, will they care? (Talk about your critic-proof movies!)
Carrey has built such a loyal following in a relatively short period of time that he could probably spend an hour-and-a-half eating pages from the phone book and the audience would come.
Actually, that might have been more entertaining.
The meager story has to do with Ace Ventura's latest case. Still wearing his bright floral shirts and towering pompadour, Ace has taken a vow of celibacy and as the film begins he is meditating with Buddhist monks . . . and periodically driving them crazy. (They throw a party when he finally leaves to accept a pet-detective job.)
His assignment is to find a missing sacred white bat in the jungles of Africa. If he succeeds, two rival tribes will call a truce. If not, it means war.
But that is merely a thread on which to hang the expected sketches, which have Ace wrestling crocodiles a la Tarzan; crawling out of a mechanical rhino, so that it appears the creature is giving birth to him (in front of a jeepload of schoolkids, of course); offering the Tarzan yell with his "talking butt" routine; and generally trying to see how gross he can get with the film's gags and still qualify for a PG-13 rating.
In interviews for this film, Carrey has been pondering his new multimillion-dollar-contract status, saying that he asked himself every day on the set whether his actions were worth the enormous amounts of money he's being paid.
If we ask that question strictly in terms of whether box-office return justifies the means, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" Is Sharon Stone worth her multimillion-dollar deals? No, because she hasn't had a hit since "Basic Instinct." But Carrey delivers at the box office.
The real question, however, is whether fans will continue to support him if he churns out more quick-and-dirty efforts like this. Fool me once, shame on you, etc.
Perhaps if I was a young boy for whom finger-shadows of nose-picking held some peculiar delight, I would see Carrey's work differently. As it is, oral surgery is more appealing than the prospect of having to review "Ace Ventura 3: Potty Jokes We Forgot Last Time."
"Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity, sex, nudity and comic violence.