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The Vegetarian Cinophile.

Note: With the widespread availability of videocassette players, video rental stores, and multiple cable TV channels, it is now possible to access an enormous variety of films, and the public is no longer dependent solely on the vicissitudes of what the local movie houses or network TV stations choose to program. This column considers selected general-release films, both past and present, which the author believes hold particular interest to viewers with a vegetarian perspective.

In a similar vein to the 1993 film Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (previously reviewed in a Vegetarian Cinophile column), the somewhat inferior sequel, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, continues with politically incorrect irreverence, this time lambasting cultural and racial stereotypes. Mostly set in Africa, the plot centers around Ace finding a stolen sacred bat which a peace-loving tribe had offered as dowry for a wedding between their Chief's daughter and another Chief's son from a warlike neighboring tribe. Ace has been engaged by the (presumably) British Consul of the province to prevent the bloodbath which would ensue if the bat were not recovered in time.

At the outset, a representative of the Consulate named Greenwald (McNeice) seeks out Ace, who has become a recluse in a Tibetan monastery following the devastating loss of a raccoon he had been trying to rescue from a mountaintop. Ace, meditating amidst a Noah's Ark of serene animals, is lured out of retirement with the vigorous encouragement of the monastery's master priest. As Ace leaves the compound, the monks are in wild celebration, while Ace comments, "I've never seen them act like that before; denial can be an ugly thing."

Arriving at the Consulate General's residence, the Consul (Callow) rides over and dismounts from his horse. Ace takes the Consul's riding whip from him and whacks him on his rear. As the Consul grimaces, Ace comments, "Funny, it didn't seem that painful when you were doing it to the horse." Greenwald explains, "Mr. Ventura has an affinity for animals."

At a lavish diplomatic reception, a tall, elegant-looking woman in a long black dress descends a staircase wearing a fur around her neck--complete with the animal's head still attached. Like radar, Ace zeroes in on her, saying, "That's quite a wrap you're wearing. Perhaps I could get you some fluffy new slippers made from the heads of innocent and defenseless baby seals." To her escort (a short diplomat with a monocle), the woman dismisses Ace as "another activist," adding, while stroking her fur, "Mr. Ventura, there's nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of nature. You should try it sometime." "All righty then," Ace responds, and knocks out her escort with one punch, picks him up and "wears" the diplomat around his neck, stroking the body the way the woman had stroked the fur. "You know something --you're right," he says, parading around the reception with the diplomat as his "fur." Finally, he removes the diplomat and places him in the woman's arms, saying that it's lovely but he fancies himself something else.

Before Ace leaves the reception, the Consul says, "There's something I'd like to show you, something you might enjoy--as one animal lover to another." He takes Ace into a trophy room, with stuffed heads of wild animals lining the walls. Ace goes into a fit. "Something wrong, Mr. Ventura?" the Consul asks. Regaining his composure, Ace replies, "Of course not--this is a lovely room of death."

As they head out to the peace-loving tribe, Greenwald comments, "They find all forms of life sacred." Ace replies, "I like them already." From this point on, the plot reduces to Ace finding the villains who stole the bat. In the climax, Ace arrives to oust the villains with an army of animals, boasting, "You see--humans and animals can live in harmony."

In a scene in which the director apparently chose to go for a laugh over consistency of character, Ace hides (while tracking a suspect) with a pride of lions feeding on a zebra. He joins in the feeding, saying "You know guys--none of this animal goes to waste," as if that were justification for his participation. This does, however, inadvertently raise a serious issue for vegetarians: how do we reconcile our love for animals with the carnivorousness nature requires of many of them?

As in Pet Detective, Carrey continues in When Nature Calls to constantly mug for the camera, walk funny, and exaggerate everything, redefining absurdity. But in their own silly, if not offensive, ways, the Ace Ventura films may actually raise consciousness about animals in the general public, and for that, this vegetarian is grateful. (Incidentally, the credits of both films assure us that "no animals were harmed" and the productions "followed the guidelines of the American Humane Association.")

[C] 2000 by Emanuel Goldman

THE COMBINED FEDERAL CAMPAIGN (CFC) is the charitable workplace campaign conducted by the US government for all federal employees--military, civilian, and postal. The VRG is included among the organizations to which you can donate. Please don't pass up this simple opportunity to support vegetarianism and the work VRG does year round. For other workers, please remember to name The Vegetarian Resource Group in your matching gifts at work, or write in VRG for your United Way campaign.

Emanuel Goldman, a vegetarian since 1964, was a film critic from 1968-1980 for several publications, including The Boston Phoenix and The Boston Review of the Arts.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Goldman, Emanuel
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Next Article:Veggie Bits.

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