The Cable Guy (1996)
February 19, 2016 7:37 PM - Subscribe

A lonely and disturbed cable guy raised on television just wants a new friend. His target, rejects him, with bad consequences, but not before creepy karaoke, awkward family game nights, and other hijinks ensue. Relatively early appearances of Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Bob Odenkirk, among others.


Roger Ebert: Note to the producers: There's an old showbiz saying that "satire is what closes on Saturday night." To which could be added another: "Black comedy is not what you pay someone $20 million to do."

Rolling Stone: Give Jim Carrey top grades for balls-out audacity — even if the movie's execution makes him look like a dunce. Carrey, the self-proclaimed "highest-paid megalomaniacal boy king in the whole of Babylon," could keep earning $20 million a flick by playing variations on Ace Ventura until he ground his career into dead ash. Instead he offers the Dumb and Dumber crowd a walk on the dark side.

NYTimes: Yet the star's record-breaking fee for this film may not be unwarranted, provided that Hollywood sticks to its current credo: take the money and run. "The Cable Guy" may generate short-range big business on the strength of Mr. Carrey's past reputation, but there will be fallout from the fact that he has been paid $20 million for giving a scary, uneven performance that's often painful to watch. This is the way to kill a golden goose.

Now (ish):
Vulture: The Cable Guy was long used as a go-to reference for people joking about movie bombs, a handy punch line to use when someone else took Gigli and Ishtar. However, its bad reputation was unfairly earned: Not only did the 1996 film about Jim Carrey's creepy cable-installer stalker actually make money, but it's legitimately funny. Directed by Ben Stiller and produced by Judd Apatow, it was tarred with the "bomb" epithet because it didn’t jibe with expectations: Jim Carrey, coming off of the Ace Ventura sequel (which grossed $108 million) and Dumb & Dumber ($127 million), earned Hollywood's first $20 million paycheck for The Cable Guy, and his fans expected more dumb-guy humor and cartoonish gesticulating. While Carrey's vengefully lonely cable man was goofy on the surface, with a lisp and fever for karaoke, he was also creepy and sinister, and the movie was a bleak social satire. Many bewildered Carreyites were confused and turned off, while critics piled on, and it was declared a disaster.

Splitsider: The Cable Guy was one of the funniest movies of the 1990s and few people know it. If you’ve only seen it once, chances are you probably still think it’s a stinker. If you happened to revisit the movie at some point in the last 15 years, you know the real deal — it’s hands-down hilarious.

Slant: The times had to catch up with The Cable Guy, and now seen in hindsight, it seems as bold an American comedic statement as was available in the mid-to-late 1990s. Carrey’s performance was coupled with Ben Stiller’s great direction, which deftly balanced laugh out loud, thought-provoking humor with a brilliant critique of TV-influenced, Gen X culture of the ’90s. The result made The Cable Guy not just an underrated comedy, but the greatest comedy of the ’90s, maybe even of the past 20 years.


This is like when Spock fought Kirk

The password is...nipple

I don't wanna pull a hammy

Tonight it's my turn
posted by MoonOrb (7 comments total)
My favorite part. The self-concious incredulity of Sam Sweet throwing his glasses never fails to tickle me for some reason.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:49 PM on February 19, 2016

Second most 90s movie ever. (First being So I Married an Axe Murderer.)
posted by infinitewindow at 11:33 PM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Really pretty good, with Jim Carrey doing a goofy character with some genuine darkness and pathos. Carrey's one of those people I always assumed would be a big deal. Back in 1990-something, didn't it seem like Jim Carrey would be on the A-list forever? Whether you actually liked what he did or not, his talent was undeniable and amazing. I knew people who hated his movies, but even they would shrug and admit he was some kind of freaky, annoying genius.

(Come to think of it, I guess I always thought Matthew Broderick would be a bigger deal too. Although by The Cable Guy he was already having some serious career wobbles. I think he went to Broadway not long after this, and never really left.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:24 AM on February 20, 2016

This was a movie my friends and I watched endlessly in college. Having a bad day? The Medieval Times scene was a sure way to cheer up. We even orchestrated a trip to Medieval Times our senior year to experience it ourselves and it was exactly like the movie and the greatest thing ever. "Smite him!"
posted by TwoStride at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2016

I watched this movie a gazillion times and here's what I remember.

The spider across Carrey's face. "Chip" is who you become when your parents let you watch too much TV when you're small. That hooker was really cute and probably spurred my lifelong attraction to women with shortish hair. My group had a friend sort of like Chip, one of my friends even had nightmares about this other friend chasing us in his car and driving us off the road. He just tries so hard to be cool. The whole trial thing went way over my head even though my school watched the OJ Simpson trial during every break and between every class. This, Truman Show and Liar, Liar are still the only films I can tolerate Carrey in. Barely. This and Tombstone were the only VHS tapes I owned that actually broke because I watched them so many times.
posted by M Edward at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2016

Having just seen it (after some 10 years or so), it is one hell of an unbalanced movie. The movie is really dark, but here and there there's some bits of Carrey's manic acting which really don't work that well here because it kept swinging from straight comedy to almost psychological thriller without setting foot on either, and instead of mood whiplash, it just creates a huge mess.

Matthew Broderick would be a bigger deal too.
The real destruction in Godzilla was in the actors' careers.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think Carrey's manic, screwball persona always had a very dark edge, and he knew that and ran with it here. It's the same thing he did as the Riddler, playing so big it straddles the line between a cartoon and a frightening crazy person.

The real destruction in Godzilla was in the actors' careers.

Well, at the time I remember thinking, "That movie's a sure-fire hit. It's kind of a lucky break for Broderick, because he's been slipping." In hindsight he was a strange choice to anchor that movie, but I guess he was affordable and people like him and if Jeff Goldblum could be an action star why couldn't another awkward, bookish-looking guy?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:10 PM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

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