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This Is the Best Dance Scene in a ‘90s Movie, and It’s Not ‘Pulp Fiction’


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The Big Picture

  • The Mask is a superhero movie set in a noir-influenced city, where a timid bank clerk becomes a mischievous trickster after finding an ancient wooden mask.
  • Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz’s performances in The Mask boosted their stardom, with Carrey showcasing his range of talent and Diaz shining in her first major role.
  • The dance sequences in The Mask are outrageous and fantastical, featuring choreography that adds to the film’s comedic and energetic atmosphere.

The overdose of a crime boss’ wife is how it ends, but a five-dollar milkshake and a dance contest is how the night begins. Away from the car-themed booths, “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry plays as Uma Thurman and John Travolta do the twist, the Batusi, and the swim. The Pulp Fiction dance at Jack Rabbit Slim’s is fun, unexpected, and ingrained into pop culture, but it doesn’t quite have the same energy as another movie released in 1994. Thurman and Travolta may be a power couple, but Jim Carrey is a powerhouse all on his own in The Mask. He still has dance partners, from an actress that The Mask would turn into a major name to an entourage of cops. Anything can happen in not one, but two dance sequences that defy gravity.

‘The Mask’ Is Not Your Usual Superhero Movie

Edge City is a noir-influenced setting, a place where gangster infestation and a masked man are causing nocturnal trouble. Stanley Ipkiss (Carrey), a timid and meek bank clerk, has his life changed when he finds an ancient wooden mask. By wearing it, he transforms into the toothy, retro-dressed, Looney Tunes-like trickster known as the Mask. By night, Stanley’s alter ego is out to do all the things he wishes he could do in his humdrum life during the day. He isn’t a vigilante, rather he’s full of self-interests, whether that means falling in love with club singer Tina (Cameron Diaz) or escaping from the police. In one of his funniest performances to date, Carrey’s The Mask never shies away from making a big, flashy scene wherever he goes.

This movie boosted both Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz’s stardom when it was released. Carrey’s dual role is the type only he could bring alive, in a range that goes from mild to madcap. The Mask became one of three movies in 1994 that allowed the actor and comedian’s fame to skyrocket. Diaz is a femme fatale as Tina, someone trying to better her life and leave the clutches of the crime syndicate she’s involved with. This wasn’t just Diaz’s first major role, it was her first role in general as she was a model before getting the co-starring part. Together, Diaz and Carrey have great chemistry, and this is more than evident during the dance at the club Coco Bongo. What is even more obvious is how The Mask lives up to the title — this is a Jim Carrey showcase, and he runs with it, racing off like Speedy Gonzales.

In the first big dance sequence, it’s strange and hilarious watching the slime green-faced Mask spin, twirl, and dip Tina as a nearby band plays infectious swing music. Dance choreographer Jerry Evans explained to Variety how he was surprised when director Chuck Russell informed him the movie was “secretly” a musical. This was to The Mask’s benefit, something so outrageous it matched the character’s spontaneous personality. Evans later talked about getting the lead actors ready for the musical numbers. He shared, “Chuck was smart, he said these two people, they’re not dancers, but this is going to be a big production piece, so I’m going to give you two weeks before we start production to rehearse them every day. So, I had the luxury of working with them at least four hours a day separately.” That commitment pays off well. The Mask would even play a part in the swing music revival that took over the late 1990s, with the real-life band Royal Crown Revue that began the revival, as the Coco Bongo members performing, “Hey Pachuco.”

RELATED: Jim Carrey Owes His Career to ‘SNL,’ But Not The Way You Think

Unlike ‘Pulp Fiction,’ Jim Carrey Brings in More Fantasy to His Dance Scene

Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz in The Mask
Image via New Line Cinema

On the night of the Coco Bongo dance, the Mask arrives wearing a mustard-yellow zoot suit and hat — he’s a spectacle right away. He can barely contain himself in his seat as Tina performs, howling like Tex Avery’s Wolf at one point. Seconds hardly pass by after she hits her final notes before the Mask storms the stage for a night that Tina and the club’s audience will not forget. The Mask commands the band to play “Hey Pachuco,” and he slides his way across the floor to Tina. The music, heavy in trumpets and drums, brings everyone to their feet. The dance choreography between Carrey and Diaz starts at a nearly breakneck pace, the passionate energy reaching bonkers levels when the scene slips in CGI effects to show how superhuman the Mask can be. He throws Tina up and over, looking as smooth as possible; this is how Stanley wishes he could act, so the Mask grants that desire.

Carrey channels his take on a Looney Tunes character during his big dance sequence in The Mask, while The Aristocats were one source of inspiration behind Mia’s choreography in Pulp Fiction. But The Mask goes one step further, leaving reality behind and becoming animated and fantastical. The ‘90s CGI effects look aged at moments, but the lack of realism works just as well, as does the helping hand in Carrey’s wacky mannerisms. The Mask and Pulp Fiction present a dance sequence that can make you eager to learn the moves off the big screen, even if it might be a little harder to replicate everything at club Coco Bongo. But the club scene in The Mask sets the stage, literally, for how the Mask thwarts his arrest during a police standoff.

The Mask is a trickster with inhuman powers that can bring fantasy into the real world. The answer to how this is possible comes in the ancient wooden face Stanley finds. It’s the mask of Loki, and Marvel fans will know enough of the history lesson the movie gives about the lore. With the magic and mischief of a Norse god, the Mask is soon Enemy Number One in the eyes of Dorian’s (Peter Greene) gang and the Edge City police. Suddenly, Carrey’s hyperactive, colorful persona shifts into resembling Carmen Miranda without her fruit hat, and one dance number ain’t enough for the guy.

The Second Dancing Scene Has ‘The Mask’ Go Full Flash Mob

Jim Carrey dancing in the street during a flash mob in The Mask
Image via New Line Cinema

Cornered by cops, the Mask suddenly transforms into costume, wearing a blue satin rumba shirt, pulling maracas out of thin air. He puts the officers under a spell to perform “Cuban Pete,” a distraction that he doesn’t need to escape — it’s more likely for his amusement. The flash mob made up of cops and local sex workers, takes over the whole location, from street poles to the patrol cars. Helicopters that hover above throw down their lights as if there were spotlights, cops swinging around from an attached rope. The cops on the ground soon get into it, having too much fun to snap out of it when the Mask finally runs off. Doyle (Jim Doughan), the more aloof of the main detective pair, is in awe of the sight: “They’re pretty good.” His partner, Kellaway (Peter Riegert) isn’t amused one bit, yelling back, “Shut up!” Sorry, detective, but the squad is pretty good — it wouldn’t be hard to believe a few quit the force to try a hand in musical theater.

In a world of crossovers, it could break the universe if the Mask shared the screen with Carrey’s other green guy, the one who hates Christmas. There are times when the actor’s voice and mannerisms hint at what the Grinch will become, and the Mask wouldn’t let the ostracizing Whos off the hook, that’s for sure. Like the Grinch, Carrey does his own singing in “Cuban Pete” and hearing Jim Carrey’s voice distinctly adds more hilarity to what happens. Outside the musical numbers, the whole movie is embellished and vibrant, in costuming and setting — director Chuck Russell was no stranger to making stylized movies. For horror fans, he’s known for directing Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors, the third Freddy Krueger installment where the dream elements are punched up and which turns Freddy into a wise-cracking horror icon. For the world and inhabitants of Edge City, Russell let another creature loose, leaving a burned sweater behind for a zoot suit.

For all the trouble the Mask causes in Stanley’s life, the wooden, mystic face does save the day in the end. Stanley can protect Tina and stop Dorian, but the real magic of this movie lies in the musical numbers. Pulp Fiction might have the more famous dancing scene, but we must not ever forget the green tornado of coolness, goofiness, and elastic rhythm from this other iconic ’90s flick.



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