(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: The Cable Guy
Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime
The Pitch: Oddball cable installer Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) attempts to strike up a friendship with customer Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) by offering him premium channels at no cost. When Steven rebuffs Chip’s frequent need for companionship, Chip goes from a mildly eccentric acquaintance to a full-fledged psycho stalker. Though it’s increasingly apparent to Steven that the cable guy is dangerous, convincing his friends, family and the authorities of that isn’t so easy
Why It’s Essential Viewing: The zany Jim Carrey of the 90s recently made a resurgence as Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog, and he’s been giving us the darker side of comedy with Kidding on Showtime. But maybe you’d like to go back to a time when Jim Carrey’s darker tendencies first mixed with his over-the-top comedic antics from movies Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask. Look no further than The Cable Guy, the sophomore feature from director Ben Stiller with the sole screenplay written by Lou Holtz Jr., and a lot more famous faces than you probably remember.
The Cable Guy arrived at the height of Jim Carrey’s fame in the mid 90s, right between Batman Forever and Liar Liar. Carrey was known as the funnyman with the rubber face, always giving the maximum amount of energy to comedic roles that were overacted in the best way possible. So his biggest fans weren’t expecting him to take this twisted turn in The Cable Guy where he basically gets a strange bro version of Single White Female. This performance showed how Carrey could make his own wackiness a little creepy and unnerving, and it broadened his horizons as an actor, even if some audiences walked away disappointed because it wasn’t his usual schtick.
But Carrey isn’t the only one who makes this worth watching. Matthew Broderick, who was once the face of carefree fun in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off makes for the perfect hapless ex-boyfriend. Broderick’s descent into paranoid madness in the wake of his friends and family embracing Carrey’s deceptively friendly Cable Guy Who Is Never Really Named is one of only a few good big screen roles in the 90s, along with The Lion King and Election.
The rest of the supporting cast is filled out with the likes of Leslie Mann as Matthew Broderick’s ex-girlfriend, George Segal and Diane Baker as his parents, Jack Black as his good friend, Owen Wilson in one of his early douchebag roles, and even some bit parts for Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, David Cross and Kyle Gass. And let’s not forget Ben Stiller in a recurring side plot unfolding on TV as twin brothers Sam and Stan Sweet, one dead and one on trial for murdering the other, modeled after the real life Menendez Brothers who captured headlines and audiences in a sensationalized trial.
That latter part creates a rather hamfisted moral that is anything but subtle, but the movie overall isn’t subtle either, so it all works pretty well. Even the end leans into the camp of it all by giving a kind of Twilight Zone conclusion with a fun twist that takes us right back to the beginning of a new story. All-in-all it’s a truly unique entry in the careers of Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick, and it deserves to be talked about and remembered nearly 25 years later.
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