Morbid curiosity is the only explanation as to why I bought and read a novelization of the 1994 film Ace Ventura Pet Detective. This is a junior novelization that was aimed at younger readers and only came in at one-hundred and twenty-three pages. The humor in the movie was just right for me as I was twelve years old when it was released, but as an adult, the crude and slapstick humor tends to fall a bit flat. When I saw this book, I wondered how does a comedy that relies on its star’s physical comedic stylings succeed in translating those laughs on the page. Also, the movie featured adult humor and some jokes that I think most folks today would view as insensitive. So how would this novelization handle those because they are clearly going for a younger audience?
Ace Ventura is a private detective that specializes in rescuing and solving crimes that involve animals. He is a weird and goofy guy with no shame when it comes to his work. Usually, he is reduced to acting like a buffoon to get clues to decipher his mysteries. His behavior is childish, but he gets results. He is currently working the biggest case of his career, the kidnapping of the Miami Dolphins’ mascot that happened just before the Superbowl. The things standing in his way are a lack of evidence and an uncooperative police force.
As I read this book, I kept waiting for Ace to talk out of his ass. Literally, that is one of the more memorable jokes in the movie. In the motion picture, he bends over then pulls his butt cheeks apart and uses his ass like some demented ventriloquist dummy. I wanted to know how that scene would play out on the page. Alas, it would never come to be as for all the scenes that featured crude humor was removed or rewritten.
In the movie, legendary quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Dan Marino, is featured heavily and he is actually a plot point. I’m not sure why this was changed in the book, but he is replaced with a character named Big Dan. I don’t know if this is some legal issue that prevented them from using a real person in the book with all the other characters being fictional. I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye at this if I hadn’t seen the movie first and didn’t know it was supposed to be Marino. It was just a weird difference.
The thing that I was most curious about was how it handled the ending. One of the characters is revealed to be a man that has been living as a woman for some years. The Crying Game was an easy target for parody back when this film was released. It handles the subject matter pretty much how you’d think a movie with a man talking out of his butt would. The reveal in the film is done when Ace strips the character down and shows that there is a bulge tucked away in her panties. Of course, the young reader version of this couldn’t have this scene exactly as it was shown in the movie. In the book, Ace quickly pulls off a wig from her head to reveal an athletic buzzcut. In both versions, this done in the crudest way possible and comes off as transphobic in today’s context.
It will probably be a very long time before I have any desire to watch Ace Ventura Pet Detective again, but I can easily say that I will never want to reread this book. Slapstick comedy and potty humor don’t translate well to the page. What appeal the movie does have all rests with Jim Carrey’s goofiness. In words printed in this book, this whole thing is a real “looohoooserrrherr!”
Adapted by Marc Cerasini
Based on the screenplay by Jack Bernstein and Tom Shadyac & Jim Carrey
Story by Jack Bernstein
Original Publication Date: 1995