On its twentieth anniversary, we re-assess Jim Carrey’s most under-appreciated movie to date
Folks, it’s time to look deep into our own souls and find the answer to a question that has been troubling a loyal few for two decades now. Why doesn’t anybody like The Cable Guy?
The 1996 comedy starred Matthew Broderick as the heartbroken Steven M. Kovacs – who makes a proverbial deal with the devil in the form of dodgy cable TV guy ‘Chip’ (Jim Carrey) and unintentionally opens up his life to a dangerous stalker with a speech impediment.
It was a blackly comic film that went on to become a cult favourite, but it was panned by critics and deemed a ‘failure’ in comparison to Carrey’s other big hits of the mid-90s.
Now though, on its twentieth birthday, it’s time right those wrongs and explain why The Cable Guy is Carrey’s most under-appreciated offering to date.
A step into black comedy
Although initially conceived as a vehicle for the late American comedy figure Chris Farley, in the hands of director Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey the film became an opportunity for the latter to show that he was more than an outrageous gurning funnyman.
The film came on the back of Carrey’s role as The Riddler in Batman Returns, with the lispy Chip Douglas being a far more terrifying figure altogether. He was manipulative, dangerous and hid in plain sight.
Maybe at the time, audiences weren’t ready for the wacky actor in darker roles, although it’s something he mastered in the years following with The Truman Show, Man on the Moon and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
*That* musical performance
Okay, so it was a little darker than the adventures of the pet detective, but that doesn’t mean this was a morose affair.
The Cable Guy featured many classic rubber-faced Carrey scenes. Witness Chip’s take on Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love’, complete with warbling vocals and senior citizens freaking out.
The instantly quotable lines
Chip’s ridiculous voice lends itself extremely well to bad impressions, and if you’ve never found yourself chanting ‘red knight’s going down’, then you truly haven’t lived.
The supporting cast
Holy future A-listers, Batman!
Looking back at the supporting cast of The Cable Guy reveals a who’s who of leading and character stars in waiting, including Jack Black, Owen Wilson, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk.
(Not to mention that Ben Stiller was in the director’s chair long before his success with Zoolander or There’s Something About Mary.)
The Judd Apatow blueprint
Having previously been only billed as a producer, Apatow’s involvement in the film was also that of a screenwriter. Much of the dialogue was down to him and, looking back, it’s extremely obvious.
Many of the casual exchanges about popular culture, the bawdy humour and even the ridiculous action set pieces (medieval duel, anyone?) were all refined and reworked in Judd’s later movies such as Superbad, The Pineapple Express and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Without The Cable Guy as a testing ground, maybe these films wouldn’t have been possible.
Take that, critical opinion!