Sky Atlantic ★★★★✩
HOW do you like your Jim Carrey? If you’re a fan of the manic gurner of Ace Ventura and Dumb And Dumber, which made him the world’s biggest-grossing comedy movie star, then Kidding might leave you feeling short-changed. If, though, you’re more drawn to the sorrow behind the sweet grin that made The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind so remarkable then, well… prepare to have your heart broken.
Because Kidding is a comedy about grief. And who else but Carrey could pull that little doozy off? It’s hard to imagine anyone else commanding our empathy so well as he walks the line between joy and pain, tearing at our heartstrings then nudging us in the ribs with a chuckle. The effect is unsettling — and meant to be.
The story centres on TV entertainer Jeff, who for 30 years has kept America’s children enthralled as Mr Pickles, a puppeteer with a homily for every occasion and a winning way with a sentimental song. Warning: opening ditty You Can Feel Anything At All will be your ear worm for days. But Mr Pickles — or is it Jeff? — is hurting. It’s been a year since the death of his son in a car accident and he can’t put a lid on his pain any longer. Something has to give. That’s a big subject from which to mine bittersweet ruminations on the nature of fame, the desire to hold a family together and the need to open up about our emotions.
How we match our public face with our private one is a theme we can all relate to
But despite the occasional bump in the road — Kidding spins a lot of plates and some of them crash — Carrey and Eternal Sunshine director Michel Gondry make it work. The overriding theme — how we match our public face with our private one — is one we can all relate to and you don’t have to be a TV icon to catch that drift.
Mr Pickles is evidently based on US TV legend Fred Rogers (in one of those coincidental moments, Tom Hanks will be playing Rogers in next year’s movie You Are My Friend) but we lose nothing if those references fly over our heads.
For here Carrey, the eternal man-child — even though there are worry lines etched around his eyes these days — has created a universal character, someone to truly care about. A good man, no kidding.