It could be said that the most amazing thing about The Cable Guy is how largely ignored it was by domestic audiences and how shabbily it was treated by critics. What’s even more amazing, though, is how good of a film it really is, and how it’s aged extremely well over the past 15 years. Point two feeds point one, but never mind, you get the point.
The movie is a dark comedy, and oh how I hate to describe it using the “d” word, because every review ever written about The Cable Guy calls it dark, sometimes unflatteringly so, as if that’s a bad thing. It is dark, but it’s darkly humorous, and crammed with laughs. Yet the film’s roots aren’t in comedy, but rather the pulpy stalker genre. Producer Judd Apatow and director Ben Stiller freely admit to watching stuff like Bad Influence, Unlawful Entry and Single White Female in preparation for the shoot. In fact, on the commentary track, many different movies are mentioned as reference points, but none that I can recall were comedies. One scene, featuring a karaoke party populated by elderly folk, was apparently inspired by the end of Rosemary’s Baby. Heh.
The script, written by Lou Holtz Jr. (who seemingly never wrote anything that got produced either before or since), is practically a carbon copy of every stalker flick you’ve ever seen. Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) is having problems with his girlfriend Robin (Leslie Mann), so he’s moved out and gotten his own apartment. Enter the Cable Guy, Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey), who refuses to take the hint that Steven isn’t looking for a new friend. The rest of the film is almost play for play the kind stuff you’ve seen in all the classic stalker films, only you’ve never seen the material played like this. It occurred to me on this viewing that perhaps the film wasn’t even written to be a comedy, but that maybe there was just something off enough about the script that somebody thought it had comedic potential. Remove Carrey’s over the top performance, and tweak a couple scenes and ideas, and all of a sudden the movie isn’t all that funny anymore (at least not intentionally). Even as is, there are several scenes that border on the disturbing.
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