Directed by Ben Stiller, The Cable Guy is a dark comedy starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick that proved maybe too weird for audiences back in 1996. It went from being treated as a joke to gaining a cult following over time but how does it fare today?
The film sees Broderick's loser Steven move into a new apartment after awkwardly separating from his girlfriend (played by Leslie Mann) and meeting his "cable guy", a strange dude calling himself Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) who speaks with a lisp, has a rather unpleasant sense of humour and who molests Steven's wall the very first time he meets him. Chip desperately wants to be friends with Steven and basically pushes this friendship onto him but when Chip finally crosses the line and Steven wants out, he soon becomes the latter's worst enemy. I could certainly see how going from The Mask or Dumb & Dumber to this would be a bit of a jump but seeing as, by this point, Jim Carrey had already played a demented, obsessive character like The Riddler in Batman Forever, I'm frankly surprised that audiences would be this put off by the actor trying something a little darker. Besides, it's not like Carrey is particularly terrifying in this.
Sure he has a spider crawl on his face at one point and wears creepy lenses during a nightmare sequence, but he's still got plenty of amusingly insane moments to play with like a basketball game gone wrong, a nutty trip to a Medieval Times restaurant and a vulgar porno password game. But although the film happily goes down more cartoonish corridors, Carrey's character is still a tragic figure with a well-meaning but ultimately deeply troubled personality. The Cable Guy is funny as a comedy but, often, it goes for plot or character moments rather than cheap laughs and that's daring yet admirable. The humour can be pretty twisted and the film tonally switches into a serial killer thriller without any serial killer in its third act. One scene sees Chip kidnap someone while making Waterworld and GoldenEye references which is random but makes complete sense with that character. Also look out for a sea of fun cameos by the likes of Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Eric Roberts, Kyle Gass and Jack Black.
It's funny to think that Chris Farley was originally cast in the role before he died as it's really hard to picture the late actor playing a slightly darker character, even more so than Carrey. I mean, can you imagine Farley showing up at a restaurant and beating the crap out of Owen Wilson? It would have been hilarious, granted, but this would have been a very, very different movie. Another memorable moment from the film is Jim Carrey's karaoke rendition of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love" which comes in at about the halfway point and is tons of fun. This is actually a much better put-together film than you'd expect: nothing is wasted. Even a subplot involving Ben Stiller playing a guy on trial for allegedly killing his own twin brother in cold blood is never forgotten and plays an important part in the story by the end of the film.
The Cable Guy builds on a clever concept: what if TV and movies became an obsession and what if someone was raised entirely by visual media to the point where he himself didn't exist anymore? It's a scary thought that might have rung a little too close to home for many since it's not too outlandish that something like that, that people like that could actually exist in this day and age. The film acts as both a metaphor for television's impact on our lives and as social satire. The televised trial being the constant reminder of how TV has intruded upon our personal lives with the Jerry Springer-quoting Chip Douglas being the literal embodiment of that. The Simpsons may have made fun of The Cable Guy's script a while back for "almost ruining Jim Carrey's career" but Lou Holtz Jr.'s script is one of the best things about this movie since it juggles cartoonish jokes with subtle satire and darker elements effortlessly. It's certainly one of the most interesting movies both Carrey and Stiller have ever done and it sadly remains an underrated, under-watched cult gem to this day.
Along with several hilarious stand-out scenes, the film brings laughs and threat in equal amounts, Jim Carrey proving to be both a hugely talented physical comedian once again but also a versatile actor capable of pulling off creepier roles.