Another from the In Defense of series

by Bethany Rose

In Defense of: Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls Jim Carrey had already established his elastic humor on In Living Color prior to the release of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Still, his role as the quirky pet detective catapulted his popularity and made him a household name overnight. So it made sense to follow Pet Detective relatively quickly with a sequel. But Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls was no Godfather II or The Empire Strikes Back or, more fittingly, A Shot in the Dark. It was not a film destined to be called a great sequel, or even a good sequel. In fact, at best, many viewed the film as forgettable. Ace went from eccentric to uncomfortably weird. Or, I assume that’s how people viewed him. But not me. While I love Pet Detective, given the choice, I will likely pick a repeat viewing of When Nature Calls every time. Here’s why.

It’s Endlessly Quotable

If there’s one thing I love, it’s quoting movie lines. The thing is, I’m not very good at, or inclined to, memorize the good lines. By “good,” I mean the lines that are likely to make every list of top movie quotes any magazine, blogger, or entertainment program has made, which are often from “prestige” films or universally loved films. Sure, I know some lines from Casablanca. And The Godfather. I can even (regrettably) quote Forrest Gump. But aside from yelling ‘Run, Forrest! Run!” on the playground a million times, I never found quoting these films highly entertaining. There are moments when quoting these movies comes in handy, but I’d much rather quote Roddy Piper’s “Kick ass and chew bubble gum” line from They Live over these films. And that’s one of the reasons I love When Nature Calls. I don’t like tension. I don’t like awkward silence. And let’s face it, it is difficult to break these things without potentially creating more tension or awkwardness. So I’d prefer to diffuse these moments with something random and goofy. And while the astute cinephile might find these occasions the perfect time to break out a line like, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” I’m more likely to say, “Bumble Bee Tuna.” Have I ever been to the zoo and failed to say, “Kinda hot in these rhinos”? Not since 1995. Some of my other favorites from the film are

  • “Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200!”
  • “Excuse me, your b***s are showing.”
  • “Spank you, Helpy Helperton.”
  • “Like a glove.”

The world is filled with enough inspirational quotes that permeate our days (thanks a lot, social media), so why not enjoy the sillier side of quotations and spout out some lines from this film!

It’s a Good Sequel, Considering the Franchise

I’ll get the easy part out of the way first. Ignoring the animated series (which is perhaps more of a spin-off anyway), there are two sequels to Pet Detective. One is When Nature Calls, the other is Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Jr. So as far as sequels go in the franchise, When Nature Calls isn’t the worst. A good sequel often connects to its source material while distinguishing itself as different or new. That’s exactly what When Nature Calls does. Ace still likes animals more than he likes most humans. He does not tolerate animal cruelty. But he often expresses himself in ways that are off-putting (to other characters, not the audience) and he can’t communicate with humans as well as he can animals. Those traits are true in both Pet Detective and When Nature Calls. But the setting, mystery, and supporting characters all get changed up enough to make the sequel distinctly different than its original. Ace is even given a little back story that explains his new fears and motivations in this film. In the first, he really just needed money, but in this film he has experienced a traumatic loss during a mission and wasn’t able to continue his career as a pet detective. It’s a pretty simple, yet effective, way of establishing the tone of the sequel. And speaking of tone, there’s still a lot of adult humor (sure, maybe it’sjuvenile adult humor, but that’s the point), whereas Pet Detective Jr. attempts to be a more family friendly version of the franchise (though the ratings aren’t too different: the first two films are PG-13, while Jr. is PG). At the end of the day, Pet Detective is a film where a man speaks from his bum, makes bathroom jokes after swimming with a shark, and will go to any comical extreme necessary to solve the case. So a sequel that includes a mission in a rhino robot, spit wads, and guano consumption is exactly what audiences should have expected. I can see why someone who didn’t like Pet Detective wouldn’t like When Nature Calls, but I don’t see why so many fans of the first have such an aversion to the sequel.

Important Issues are Plot Points

Ace’s main case in Pet Detectiveinvolved finding Snowflake, the mascot for the Miami Dolphins. The twist in the case was a Crying Game reference that wasn’t quite appreciated by everyone. But most of the film was just the basics of Ace attempting to solve a mystery. In When Nature Calls, there’s still a mystery, that of a missing sacred bat “Shikaka.” What sets this film apart from Pet Detective is that in solving the crime, a real-world issue is shown. The reason for the bat’s theft connected to Vincent Cadby, who planned on pitting the Wachati and Wachootoo tribes against each other. Once their sacred bat had been gone long enough, he felt enough unrest would occur that he’d be able to take over the land. So a wealthy white man was planning on destroying two African tribes for his own gain. Pair that plot point with Ace’s commentary on killing wild animals, many endangered, for sport, and there are some serious issues touched on in the film. Sure, these issues are sandwiched between jokes about sex and body functions, and Ace’s ignorance of important tribal rituals isn’t exactly progressive, but I wasn’t really looking for a culturally relevant film in the first place, so why are you!