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Jim Carrey: Keys to getting his career back on track

Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper's Penguins

Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper's Penguins Credit: handout

Jim Carrey was once Hollywood's unquestioned king of comedy. For a big chunk of the '90s, there were few bigger big-screen names than the hyperactive star of the "Ace Ventura" movies, "The Mask" and "Dumb & Dumber."

Since then, Carrey's smooth ride to all-time greatness has encountered some turbulence. The 49-year-old hasn't had a smash-hit comedy since "Bruce Almighty" (2003). After the success of "The Truman Show," with the notable exception of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," his attempts at flexing his dramatic muscle haven't panned out.

Now that the gifted performer is going the predictable family-film route in "Mr. Popper's Penguins" - an adaptation of the beloved children's book that opens in theaters on Friday - we offer our tips for getting his career back on track.

Family movies are not the answer
"Mr. Popper's Penguins" isn't terrible, but it's part of a long tradition of Carrey journeying into the world of subpar PG-rated literary adaptations. The others: the forgettable, wholly mediocre "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" and "A Christmas Carol," each of which suggests something is off in the star's family-film role-selection process.

The '90s are over
We'll always have fond memories of Carrey plunging his face in "Ace Ventura," but if there's one thing the modest box office takes of recent Carrey-starring facsimiles "Fun With Dick and Jane" and "Yes Man" proved, it's that the audience for that sort of unhinged zaniness is not what it once was.

Instead, successful comedies in this age of "The Office" and Judd Apatow are largely characterized by a sly, subtle sense of humor that's far removed from Carrey's earliest works. That's not to say the star can't keep up with the times - his cameo as the Fingerlakes Guy was the most memorable guest appearance on last month's cameo-packed "Office" season finale. More of that, please.

Take more risks
Critics adored Carrey's daring work in "I Love You Phillip Morris," but the film's gay-themed subject matter kept audiences away. Hopefully, that won't scare him off similar such projects. After all, the offbeat "Eternal Sunshine" and "Truman Show" are two of his biggest critical and commercial hits - and, we'd say, his two best movies, period.

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