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Sunday, 4 March 2018

Retro Review: The Cable Guy (1996)

The Cable Guy 
Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Jack Black, George Segal, Eric Roberts, Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofolo, David Cross, Andy Dick
Genre: Comedy Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $102 million 

Plot: A lonely and disturbed cable guy raised on television just wants a new friend, but his target, a designer, rejects him, with bad consequences 

'Twisted & Somewhat Misunderstood Effort, With Carrey At His Darkest Comedic Best'

The Cable Guy marks as Canadian funnyman Jim Carrey's first foray into dark character roles, which he then followed up with as The Riddler in Batman Forever and psychological thriller, Number 13. It was also the same film that during that same year, it signalled the end of Carrey's winning streak after securing the accolade of highest-paid movie actor in Hollywood. After securing a triple bill of successive hits, Ace Ventura, The Mask & Dumb & Dumber that skyrocketed Carrey's status and made him a worldwide name, it seemed that to critics at the time, in The Cable Guy, which initially was going to star Chris Farley, Jim Carrey had hit his first major flop. Every star had at least one flop & whilst this film is noted for being just that for Carrey, in watching it today, as something that I didn't bat an eyelid for as a teenager in 1996, The Cable Guy is actually not that shabby. Far from it, and even as a Jim Carrey comedy vehicle, it's not so completely different and radical as it still echoes traits of his style of comedy that was in his other comedy efforts. 

For all the debate of whether this risk that he had taken had paid dividends, it was all too obvious that The Cable Guy would far from overtake Ace Ventura and The Mask as Jim Carrey's biggest box office hit. Far from it. Eschewing his wholesome wacky comedic antics, at this point he went one step ahead of fellow comedic funnyman, Robin Williams by going down the darker and edgier path, which Williams, himself, hadn't approached until the early 2000s & post-Oscar glory with Death To Smoochy, Insomnia and One Hour Photo, but whereby Eddie Murphy had undertaken through Wes Craven's Vampire In Brooklyn back in 1995. For me I guess, The Cable Guy, released a year later, is to Jim Carrey, just as Vampire In Brooklyn is to Murphy: darker comedies where as comedic actors, they play against type and comedies that weren't well received, almost - yet still entertain me, even though they weren't profound or grand. 

As loony cable guy, Chip Douglas, Jim Carrey infuses the character with just the right amount of wacky bravado that as over-the-top as it is, it isn't too OTT and grating that overrides the movie and make it more ridiculous and making it less fun. Which sadly had happened with Batman Forever. Chip is a Cable TV engineer with a twisted mind who weaves his way into Stephen's life. Stephen, an architect has just moved into a new apartment, after splitting up with his girlfriend, Robin and offering Chip $50 to add a few more channels to his TV package. What Stephen didn't expect is that Chip is in need of a friend, so much so, it gets to a point where he will take over & have an adverse effect on Stephen's life. Chip stalks Stephen and following him wherever he goes: from a basketball match, throwing a party to going to dinner together. 

The Cable Guy feels like a lighter, comedic version of the psychological thriller, Single White Female but with the clingy, obsessive guy and so-called normal guy meshed with Fatal Attraction & the comedic zip of a buddy comedy.

This is an un-Jim Carrey like movie that plays on Jim Carrey's strengths, especially his improvisational comedy skills. I actually felt for Carrey's character, Chip and Matthew Broderick's character, Stephen just came across as being not so nice and friendly.

From Chip putting turkey skin on his face whilst dining at a medieval restaurant, the jousting scene at the restaurant, the basketball match to the old man singing 'American Woman', The Cable Guy has its fair share of lighter moments, courtesy of Carrey himself. 

Dubbed the film that derailed Jim Carrey's A-list career, The Cable Guy appears to be a startling take on the dark comedy formula, whilst still playing to Jim Carrey's talents. Reviews and feedback across the board were mixed, overall. Also expectations were high, given Carrey was on a roll and he netted $20 million to play Chip, but director Ben Stiller still manages to make it work, despite the uneven moments that make it feel out of place, but the comedy is not too wacky and silly and though it feels a little odd, it plays out as a dark comedy that had something to say through the story. 

Jim Carrey makes it work and watching his mannerisms & performance, he is the only comedic actor I can think of, who could sell and pull off this character, well and as well as he did as Chip. Like Robin Williams, Carrey shows his range and versatility through a variety of his character roles, giving it all of his energy, not to mention his boisterous wacky persona to a character, who would be usually reserved, otherwise. Chip is not an evil person; in fact, his neediness comes across as sort of endearing and sad that I feel for him, sometimes, rather than pathetic and sad. Matthew Broderick is fine, but his character can be or is a douche. He's a Debbie-downer, is always in a negative mood and just doesn't want to 'lighten up'. The Cable Guy is more of a Jim Carrey starring vehicle, anyhow and so Broderick's appearance is far mooter than I'd expected. The other co-stars, Jack Black, Leslie Mann, George Segal did okay in their minor roles, but are overshadowed by Carrey's larger-than-life role and where he is the real (and arguably only 'star') of the film. 

The Cable Guy is one of those films that is often misunderstood, but if you go in expecting your usual big hearty laughs from Jim Carrey, then one is in for a disappointment, somewhat. But at the same time, it's not quite a huge departure for him and this comedy, as even with all that, I still got some enjoyment and entertainment out of it. & contrary to some people, it's not what I'd call a mean-spirited comedy as others have eschewed. This is still Jim Carrey doing his usual funny schtick, only it has dark undertones and despite Broderick's occasionally stiff turn, The Cable Guy still manages to hold up, well. 

Final Verdict: 

The comedy aspects are downplayed with a story that still had me glued in places and though it is not quite the gem, I also don't hate or loathe it. In some instances, like with the basketball and karaoke scenes, they were enjoyable for me. 

It's still far from Jim Carrey's finest, for me personally anyhow, and not the laugh-riot one would expect, but compared to his turn as the scheming Riddler in Batman Forever, with The Cable Guy, in contrast, this is far more right up his own alley than Joel Schumacher's 1995 comic book bomb, and his performance is arguably the best thing about The Cable Guy and is the only, and main reason to watch it. 


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