Is it 2011 or 1995?
You wouldn't be blamed for thinking the world did a time warp as it entered the new year, given the crop of '90s stars currently in the midst of a career renaissance. From movies and music to comedy and country, check out five blasts from the past bouncing back into the present:
In 1994, Jim Carrey cracked up the country, hamming it up in "The Mask," "Dumb and Dumber," and "Ace Ventura." (Yes, all three of those movies came out in the same year.) Since then, he's portrayed a plethora of characters, but none quite as out-of-the-box as Steven Russell, a con man/four-time jail escapee who goes to lengths both insane and inane for the man of his dreams. A critical darling, "I Love You Phillip Morris" could score Carrey his first Oscar nomination.
Is the actor afraid of how mainstream audiences will receive his gay prison love story? Not exactly -- in November, he told Parade magazine, "I'm here to do extreme and interesting things." That philosophy apparently extended to Carrey's "Black Swan" spoof on the latest edition of "Saturday Night Live," in which he twirled in a tutu, inserted his fist into his mouth, and pulled down his leotard to reveal his nipples to the world.
Was there a world without J. Lo? Her name has been ubiquitous since her debut album "On the 6" dropped in 1999, but for a while, it seemed like Jennifer Lopez was less of a music maven and more of an everything-other-than-music-maven, with her movie appearances, clothing line, collection of perfume, family of four, etc., etc. She and her Sony music label severed ties last year, suggesting that Jenny From the Block might be ready for her swan song. Not so -- last year, Lopez signed on to serve as a judge on "American Idol," putting her back among the recording industry's hit makers and soon-to-be stars. "Waiting for Tonight?" No, her fans are waiting for Jan. 19, when "Idol's" tenth season debuts.
Like J. Lo, Gwyneth Paltrow seemed to be at the top of her game as the '90s closed. In 1999, she scored her first Oscar (best actress) for "Shakespeare in Love." But she also scored a spate of bad press because, instead of accepting the thing and walking off stage, she started sobbing. Perhaps in an attempt to remake her image after that tearful breakdown, in the aughts, Paltrow made herself known as not just an actress, but as an actress versed in dieting, child-rearing, working out, and organization, who is happy to dispense tips on any and all of these things via a semi-weekly newsletter called Goop. To some, that made Paltrow seem a little snooty. Stuck up, maybe.
Death to that disposition: Lately, Paltrow's been all about having fun. She sang and shimmied to Cee-Lo's "Forget You" on "Glee." (Watch for the two to do a duet on the upcoming episode of "Saturday Night Live.") She sang and strummed during the Country Music Awards. And she sang and sang and sang for "Country Strong," the new movie that positions her not just as an actress who offers advice on how to live the good life, but as a singing actress who offers advice on how to live the good life. New year, new resume addition.
The name is not Chandler Bing. In February, "Friends" alum Matthew Perry will return to the small screen with ABC's "Mr. Sunshine," in which he plays the manager of a San Diego sports arena who starts to question his life after hitting 40. It's the second time Perry has tried to revive his TV career since the seminal '90s sitcom went off the air (in 2006 and 2007, he starred in the critically acclaimed but short-lived "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"). While the "Mr. Sunshine" trailer shows Perry reprising the jumpy, goofy personality of his famous alter-ego, he wants to develop a new character. "I don't think people want to see a character that's night-and-day different than Chandler, but we want to try to do some different things," Perry said last August at a Q&A panel about the show.
Fellow "Friend" Matt LeBlanc will also try to jump-start his career, which has been idling since Central Perk shuttered its doors. His new show "Episodes" debuted Saturday on Showtime. In it, he plays an arrogant version of himself -- a Hollywood actor starring in an American adaptation of a British sitcom, trying to mesh with husband-and-wife TV producer couple from across the pond.
Like his "Episodes" character, LeBlanc needs a hit. After playing high-energy, low-intelligence Joey Tribbiani for 12 years -- 10 on friends, two on the laughable spinoff, "Joey" -- LeBlanc's most notable project until now was a movie that cast him alongside a baseball-playing chimpanzee. He hopes to have a hit on his hands with his latest venture. "I've said no to everything over the last four years," he recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "I didn't want to go back to work."