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The Cable Guy
1996 - PG-13 - 96 Mins.
Director: Ben Stiller
Producer: Judd Apatow
Written By: Lou Holtz Jr.
Starring: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Jack Black, Leslie Mann, George Segal
Review by: John Ulmer
   

This is my impression of Quentin Tarantino's jaw
To some people, movies are more than a passion. They are a way of life. For me, movies are not only one of my favorite hobbies, but I feel that all films express a certain reflection of the individual watching them. They say that you can tell a lot from a person by the way they act, talk, walk. I believe you can also tell a lot about a person from the sort of movies they like. And sometimes audience's reactions, too -- I once read that most of the test subjects who disliked "Taxi Driver" were those with anxiety, depression and/or anger problems, and their dislike for the film was rooted in the fact that they subconsciously found themselves relating to Travis Bickle, one of cinema's most complex characters: sympathetic and yet, at the same time, extremely evil.

And I think that for Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey), movies and television are more than disposable entertainment. They are his entire life. He is consumed by film to such an extent that he creates multiple personas based on TV personalities. Many critics bashed Carrey's performance for being too sadistic. I think it's perfect because it's daring and hugely different than his other movies, and accurately reflects the mindset of a troubled individual who has grown up on his TV, rather than actually experiencing true life. Not many movies are like "The Cable Guy," and most of them don't have the guts to make a statement so bold and striking.

In "The Cable Guy" Carrey is the title character, his real name supposedly Chip Douglas, but towards the end we're not really sure what's true and false anymore. Chip works for a cable company and offers to hook up new apartment tenant Steven (Matthew Broderick) up with illegal cable. All Douglas asks for in return is a friendship, which Steven reluctantly agrees to. But what he doesn't realize is that Chip is an obsessive monster -- bred on films as a child and unable to separate celluloid from reality, he pursues a "Fatal Attraction" route and begins to stalk Steven. This is one of those movies, like "What About Bob?", where the hero is apparently the only one who realizes how crazy the "bad guy" is. Richard Dreyfuss went nuts trying to convince his family of Bill Murray's insanity in "Bob." In "The Cable Guy," Matthew Broderick has a tough time trying to expose Chip's sadistic side.

I am not Carrey's biggest fan. But I have to admit that over time the comedian has grown on me. And when I see him in "Dumb and Dumber" I can't picture anyone else taking on the role. Here he is in another role where I can see no one else portraying his character, and yet he still hasn't convinced me that he's a great talent. Strange.

I think Carrey's comedy is distinct and the reason his films have become more well-received over the years is because he has invented a certain area of modern-day comedy and thrived in that cubby hole for quite some time. I believe that humor is not existent; it is invented. Different forms of humor come and go. Right now, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey are two of the highest-paid comedians the world, and yet in fifty years, where will they be?

Comedy is constantly changing. Humor is invented and re-invented to the point that what was once funny no longer is. That is why so many comedies from various eras of American history seem so outdated by today's standards. We are living in a world of Jim Carreys, Adam Sandlers, and Mike Myers. Although they still receive jobs, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, and especially Dan Aykroyd -- some of the most popular comedians of the '80s -- have found themselves all stuck in ruts, filming kiddie movies for Disney and -- some of them (especially Murray and Aykroyd) -- departing comedy to pursue more serious careers in an area of film that will never become outdated: drama (for Murray, it is "Lost in Translation"; Aykroyd is less lucky with projects such as "Pearl Harbor," which might as well be classified as comedy).

The movie was directed by Ben Stiller, who carefully balances the neurotic against the sweet. The movie has its fair share of cameos, and in a great sequence Owen Wilson stars as a confident jerk who takes out Steven’s girlfriend on a date. The Cable Guy finds out and, thinking he’s doing Steven a favor, assaults Wilson in the bathroom of a fancy restaurant.

Perhaps the reason so many critics disliked "The Cable Guy" when it was released in 1996 was because they found themselves relating to Carrey's character. Maybe not. All I know is that it is one of the most daring and surprising comedies of the '90s -- not especially great but very unique and entertaining. I relate to its main character because we both love movies. My obsession is much calmer than Chip's. But the film does have a good eye for spotting good areas of satire. Yes, it's often rather dark and absurd. But isn't that the point?
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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