Jim Carrey? Oscar contender? You bet. That is, if he follows our advice on how to upgrade to Serious Actor

By Nancy Miller
Updated April 28, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jim Carrey
Credit: Jim Carrey: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage.com
  • Movie

Jim Carrey? Oscar contender?

In ”Bruce Almighty” (in theaters now), Jim Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, a local TV news reporter who is granted God-like abilities. In real life, however, Carrey was powerless in budging public opinion that as a movie star he’s more than just a rubber face. Judging by Carrey’s royal flop in Frank Darabont’s ”The Majestic” (It cost a reported $90 million, made a paltry $27 million), audiences aren’t buying Serious Carrey. At least not yet. But with a few strategic roles — some already in place — Carrey could be clinking Oscars with Tom Hanks in no time. Here are our pointers:

DO A Charlie Kaufman movie Okay, so you just wrapped ”The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the latest effort from ”Adaptation” scribe Charlie Kaufman. Good move. Thanks to him, we have forgiven Nicolas Cage for ”Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (and ”Family Man,” and ”Gone in Sixty Seconds”). Not to mention that with ”Eternal” costars Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo, you might acquire a certain adjective not often applied to your movies: cool.

DON’T Another Andy Kaufman movie In ”Man on the Moon,” you nailed Andy Kaufman — perhaps a little too well, as it appeared you damn near lost your mind while shooting the Milos Forman film. But as a comedian known for impersonations (Henry Fonda and Clint Eastwood come to mind) doing another biopic doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. So that Howard Hughes project you considered with ”Memento” writer-director Christopher Nolan? It’s just as well that Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese beat you to it with ”The Aviator.”

DO ”Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” Insiders are saying this movie, based on the wildly popular children’s books about three clever orphans is Paramount’s ”Harry Potter.” Pre-production has been a bit rocky (”Men in Black II” director Barry Sonnenfeld was replaced by ”Casper” director Brad Silberling) but with your juicy role as Count Olaf, the orphans’ money-hungry guardian, this movie could be bigger than the ”Grinch,” and with a bonus: respect from grown-up fans.

DON’T Sign on (yet) for ”Lemony Snicket II: Electric Boogaloo.” Okay, so it’s not going to be called ”Electric Boogaloo,” but you get the idea. Ever since ”Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” it seems your ”no sequels” policy has served you well. (Both ”Dumb & Dumber” and ”The Mask” franchises will continue without you.) Just so you know, there are 13 books in the Lemony Snicket series, so consider yourself warned.

DO Star in a romantic comedy opposite Meg Ryan Or some other box office cutie. Tom Hanks broadened his appeal with Nora Ephron flicks like ”Sleepless in Seattle” (which came out the same year he got an Oscar for ”Philadelphia”) and ”You’ve Got Mail.” No, these weren’t masterpieces in filmmaking, but they upped the interest as a leading man among older female audiences who, by the way, buy plenty of tickets to Oscar-worthy dramas.

DON’T Start dating Meg Ryan Between your marriage to Lauren Holly and romance with Renée Zellweger, you’d think Julia Roberts was your acting coach. Now the tabloids say you’re hooking up with Nicole Kidman even though your ”Dog Years” project (which was supposed to costar Kidman) has been scrapped. Jim, you’re an intriguing celebrity, but you ain’t J.Lo. The trials of your love life don’t enhance your appeal. Instead, your trifles make audiences wonder why a funny, seemingly nice guy like you can’t hold down a decent relationship. Stick with costars who are already attached (like ”Bruce”’s Jennifer Aniston) or go date a civilian, and your private life will be as it should: none of our business.

DO Follow Robin Williams’ example in ”Good Will Hunting” By now, we know what a Jim Carrey movie is. But what about a movie that stars someone else with Jim Carrey in it? Robin Williams took a supporting role in ”Good Will Hunting” and it got him an Oscar. Or if you can’t stay out of the spotlight, how about a dark turn as Williams did as the creepy, obsessed clerk in ”One Hour Photo”?

DON’T Follow Robin Williams’ example in ”Patch Adams” Like Williams, you can trigger laughter with a cock of an eyebrow. Trouble is, like Williams, you don’t wield that same power over audiences with drama. In ”The Majestic,” the painstaking strain to make sure we all felt your excruciating earnestness felt mawkish. If you can’t see it in yourself, go watch Robin Williams’ hubris magically ”heal” the terminally ill in ”Patch Adams” (also directed by ”Bruce Almighty”’s Tom Shadyac) or for that matter, check out Williams’ ”Life Is Beautiful” misstep ”Jakob the Liar.” Learn from Williams and stay away from the 3 H’s: hospitals, Holocausts, and hokum.

Do you think Jim Carrey can cut it as a dramatic actor?

Bruce Almighty

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 94 minutes
  • Tom Shadyac