Jim Carrey returns to television in the Michael Gondry-directed Kidding. It’s not a laugh riot, but Carrey delivers an earnest and compelling performance.
You probably know Kidding from its trailer. It’s the one where Jim Carrey gets a hand job from a puppet. No, it’s not some bizarre outtake from The Happytime Murders. It’s Showtime’s new dramedy Kidding. Now, coupling that image with the reputation of Jim Carrey, you might think Kidding would take on an absurdist tone. After all, what could be more well suited to a kid’s show host having a nervous breakdown?
But what if I told you that this is actually Jim Carrey’s second outing with director Michael Gondry (their first being Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)?
Shifts your perspective, right?
Created by Dave Holstein, Kidding stars Carrey as Jeff, a.k.a. “Mr. Pickles,” the host of a extraordinarily popular children’s show. It’s as if Pee Wee Herman and Mr. Rodgers had a love child. That’s Mr. Pickles. But real-world Jeff is in full-on crisis mode. Following a life-altering accident, Jeff loses his son and separates from his wife within the span of a year. The pilot shows him struggling to cope with the dichotomy between the smiley-happy Mr. Pickles and the deeply depressed Jeff. The greatest moment in the pilot shows Mr. Pickles delivering a controversial discourse on death to his toddler audience. It’s an incredibly sad and sweet moment, and one that Jim Carrey excels in delivering.
This isn’t just the Jim Carrey show, though. The Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time show is actually a family affair. His father (Frank Langella) produces the show, and his sister (Catherine Keener) makes most of the puppets. Both actors are equally tremendous on the show, creating complex characters that feel cinematic in their depth. Judy Greer plays Jeff’s estranged wife. Cole Allen also exceptional as Jeff’s deeply, deeply disturbed son.
Much of the show is painful to watch, particularly if you’re a parent. That said, there are comic gems here and there (a running gag about two guys in a massive puppet outfit pays off particularly well). But the real draw here is Jim Carrey’s subtle and sweet performance. Yes, it’s mostly a sad affair, but the emotions come honestly. Carrey seems to really be trying to work through something in this new performance. It’s a welcome return in a sweet little oddity that, with the right nurturing, could develop into something great.
Kidding premieres on Showtime Sunday night at 10pm ET.