June 14, 1996
United States (English)
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Lou Holtz Jr.
"The Cable Guy" is a subpar comedy but shifts into an odd horror about a very lonely, very manic man. There is one reason to watch this movie, that reason is Jim Carrey.
Steven (Matthew Broderick) is your average American guy who finds himself moving into a bachelor pad after a marriage proposition left his girlfriend (Leslie Mann) needing some space. On day one there is an insistent ratting at the door followed by that iconic call, "Cable guy!" Jim Carrey's character, Chip, is on the other side of the door and should Steven open it he will be the latest victim of a troubled man who will do anything for you as a friend, except leave you alone. Broderick opens the door and so we have this movie.
The plot feels loose, chockfull of skits from the drawing board (such as the goofy basketball game) that serve more as filler than character development. That Steven is ever considered the "bad guy" when it is clearly his "cable guy" that is the source of all is misery is anincredible stretch that the film wants us to take. Everything, and I mean everything, in "The Cable Guy" is secondary to Jim Carrey's no-holds-barred performance. It obliterates the borders of annoying and becomes an atmosphere all of its own. When he enter the room the film is all about what this crazy dude will say (in his lisp-y way) or do. And then there are the myriad ways Carrey reacts on his contort-able face. This is a showy performance, but is makes for one great show! The highlight just might be his fantastic karaoke to "Somebody to Love" (seriously, watch this), which when you think about it is what his character is all about.
Chip lives up to his title "cable guy" title as every other line of dialogue is a quotation or reference to some TV show or movie. On one of their bro dates Chip places Steven's uneaten chicken skin upon his face and acts as Hannibal Lector from "Silence of the Lambs." At his most unhinged Carrey even produces music from his restless voice box (which fiddles around in his throat during that singalong number): "You know what the trouble about real life is? There's no danger music!" Chip brings significant edge to all aspects of Steven's life and then proves to be a threat. The film is sometimes funny, but becomes increasingly disturbing when Chip won't leave Steven and his loved ones alone.
"The Cable Guy" casts Jack Black as a co-worker of Steven, it's a small role before Hollywood knew how to cast him. Also, Owen Wilson shows up to date Steven's girl, but Chip beats the living crap out of him like any good, psychotic friend would do. In a brief flashback we get a glimpse of why Chip might be the way he is. An absent mother left her son at home to watch TV, expecting the TV to watch him. Chip finally laments before his attempted suicide, "You were never there for me were you mother? You expected Mike and Carol Brady to raise me! I'm the bastard son of Claire Huxtable! I am a Lost Cunningham! I learned the facts of life from watching 'The Facts of Life'! Oh God!" The result is as sorrowful as it is humorous.
Two years later Jim Carrey would star in a masterful parable of reality television, "The Truman Show." While "The Cable Guy" does not reach those levels in its message, it does provide a troubling caricature of a soul who was raised on cable television. It's a decent film with an far from ordinary performance. When I get around to my retrospective year-by-year awards, I just may list Carrey among my nominees for Best Actor of 1996.
CONTENT: sexual dialogue, language, some violence