The law of diminishing returns dictates that sequels to bad movies are the worst movies of all, because the producers are not only working to rebottle the original non-magic, they're inevitably doomed to come up short. Even by those standards, Son Of The Mask is more handicapped than most, since 1994's The Mask was a vehicle tailored to the specific talents of rubber-faced fartsmith Jim Carrey, who's wisely keeping his distance. But as with Dumb And Dumberer, another sequel to a Carrey hit minus its principal cast, New Line owns the property and has retooled it for the thumb-sucking set, so parents are advised to bust out the emergency Ritalin. It's hard to believe that beings as young and delicate as children are the target audience for such a frantic, retina-searing assault on the senses, but as pure visceral experience, Son Of The Mask borders on the experimental.


Ally McBeal fans may want to stick around, though, because their beloved creepy computer-animated dancing baby is back, even in the ultrasound. The spawn of the title comes about when lowly cartoonist Jamie Kennedy discovers the fabled mask in his back yard and wears it to an office Hollywood party, where he turns into a whirling mass of runaway egotism and lame improvisation. The wild night ends with him impregnating his baby-crazed wife Traylor Howard, but the child really belongs to Loki, the Norse god of mischief, who wants his mask back and will stop at nothing to get it. Played by Alan Cumming, who could stand to cool off on the wacky shtick, Loki dons various unfunny disguises in pursuit of the baby while Kennedy tries to play father to an infant whose special qualities include speaking in a lucid adult voice, bouncing off the ceiling, and spraying a geyser of urine into Dad's face.

Though his roots in sketch comedy (TV's The Jamie Kennedy Experiment) make him a natural C-list successor to Carrey, Kennedy mostly occupies the sidelines while his scrappy mutt Otis and the Elasti-baby chase each other around the house. The Scooby-Doo movies are a lesson on the perils of CGI pooches, but nothing is more chilling than a computer-enhanced infant enunciating, sprinting, or doing the Electric Slide. (The worst moment is when the baby first converts from a flesh-and-blood child to a CGI puppet—it's as if his humanity has been cruelly stolen.) No doubt extensive market research shows that there's an audience out there for movies like Son Of The Mask, but it's too depressing to speculate who that might be.