One of my favorite things about recalling my movie-watching past is considering the ways I viewed certain films through younger eyes. To see these movies again, today, is often a wildly different experience. Back then, there were countless passages I didn’t get, and, surely, dialogue I couldn’t grasp. A childhood story I’ve recounted ad nauseam involves Batman Returns, and my recitation of the word “bastard” at a friend’s house during playtime. I was eight, and I was scolded by the friend’s mom, but all I knew was that’s what Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman said when she landed in a truck full of kitty litter. We all have stories like this, of course. But I recently discovered that, in my personal viewing history, perhaps no movie has played more differently for my current and former selves than Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Co-written by lead star Jim Carrey, this 1994 football-themed farce made the rubbery comedian a household name, and was quickly followed, within two years, by the onslaught of The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, and the Ace Ventura sequel, When Nature Calls. I’m not sure if I ever loved Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but I clearly absorbed enough of it to remember its hallmarks well: lines like, “Alrighty then”; Ace’s signature, tidal-wave up-do; and gags like Ace literally talking out of his ass. What I didn’t realize is that this movie is shockingly offensive, and not in the tongue-in-cheek, envelope-pushing way most modern comedies are. It’s set during the lead-up to a Super Bowl, and while I’m sure plenty of football films have delivered their share of queer slurs, I don’t think any are as homophobic—or, in large part, transphobic—as this one.