Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: “The Essential Jim Carrey,” by MA Cassata

Text © Robert Barry Francos
Images from the Internet

The Essential Jim Carrey: An Unofficial Fan Guide
By M.A. Cassata
BearManor Media (Albany, GA), 2009
131 pages, $19.95 Why am I reviewing a book about comedian / actor Jim Carrey? Well, I am proud to call the author my friend, and we support each other. She was a long-time contributor to the print version of FFanzeen, which you may have seen reprinted in this very blog.

M.A. Cassata is not new to the celebrity game, with a number of books under her belt, including ones about the Monkees, Michael J. Fox, Cher, Elton John, plus many other modern cultural phenoms, such as Britney Spears and ‘NSync. But I’m here to actually talk about the book, not the author (though if you’re interested in more of her work, check out

The book points out that Jim Carrey’s idol was Jimmy Stewart. While Stewart is not usually remembered as a comic actor (though he had his shining moments), Stewart’s everyman can be seen in Carrey characterizations, especially when Carrey’s in his non-rubber mode.

This factoid about Carrey admiring Stewart is sort of the heart of what makes this book tick. Rather than the usually bio book of the life of whomever where the author tells us what the subject was thinking years ago, Cassata breaks the information down to the bare, well, essentials.

The Essential Jim Carrey is almost like a “book of lists” about the Canadian comedian, which is well researched in fine detail, and collected into appropriate sections, such as filmography and other works (e.g., television roles and talk show appearances), trivia facts and quizzes, quotes by both the actor and his characters, and many other spots of information. This info is conveniently broken down into sections for films, topics, etc. For me, an especially interesting part is the section where his fans, such as the “Carreyholics Society,” get to spout off what they like about the man, their favorite films, and sometimes the ones that don’t work for them.

There is info and pictures of Carrey in various roles, right up to his 2009 portrayal of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (hey, this book is hot off the press, printing listed as Feb 2010). Heck, there is even a list (and description) of his films currently in development.

As much as this book is about Jim Carrey, it is also about – and for – his legion of fans. Yet, as gushy as this book sometimes becomes (in this case the direction one wants to go), it does not shy away from the knowledge that not all his films have been popular (such as The Majestic and, to some extent, The Cable Guy), and even his fans get to spout off what they think are his worst, as well as his best. There are also quotes about Carrey’s performances by various film critics, listed under banners of the films they reviewed. His co-actors also get a section to state what it was like to work with him.

Everything is very neatly packaged for the reader to find out what they want, including an extensive bibliography, and what memorabilia is most popular (and how much it sold for in auctions). It’s all very fun, breezy, and user – I mean reader friendly.

This is the kind of book I like to read before I go to bed, or, yes I’m going to say it, in the bathroom (I had the 50th Anniversary Edition of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in my “library” by the throne for years…and now it looks like Carrey may be playing Ripley in a future flick…cosmic!). This book is chock full of short, fun facts, as well as Carrey’s history, both before fame and since.

To set the record straight, I thought he was brilliant on In Living Color, and my fave films of his are The Mask (I was a fan of the Dark Horse comic it was based on) and the bravo performance in Man on the Moon; I’m actually drawn towards his more serious work. Lastly, and this is important: one of the fans thanked and quoted is listed as Robert F. of Brooklyn. This is not me. Okay? Got that? Good. Now go out and get the book if you’re a fan: It’s essential.

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