The Cable Guy / Ben Stiller / 1996 / threestar

Active Ingredients: Dark tone; Jim Carrey’s physical comedy; Karaoke jam
Side Effects: Romance subplot; Development of tension

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The official record paints The Cable Guy as a total flop, both financially and with critics and audiences. Upon its release, Jim Carrey’s $20 million pricetag was the most discussed element of the film. Today, however, The Cable Guy’s strangeness and darkness shines through its familiar Hollywood facade. Maybe audiences weren’t sure what to make of Carrey’s performance. He flaunts the same vocal and facial tics as he did in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but something is different. His character is much harder to pin down, rougher around the edges. He’s still hilarious, but this is not the safe, lovable buffoon audience’s knew from Carrey’s previous films.

Director Ben Stiller delivers on some really well-executed comedic setpieces like the basketball game, jousting match and “karaoke jam”, featuring Carrey’s priceless rendition of “Somebody to Love”. Stiller’s has a workmanlike directorial approach, which more than suits the film’s attitude, and he even displays a subtle handling of the cable guy’s psychosis. Perhaps that’s what stopped audiences from embracing the film: this isn’t the immature, silly humor of Ace Ventura, but one with a distinct menace and edge.

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