There’s a lot of great stuff on streaming services these days. As a connoisseur of life without cable, I’m here to (sometimes) guide you through what’s available from the 1990’s. Welcome to What’s Streaming?!?
The Cable Guy is not a good film. This is not, by any stretch, an outrageous take on the 23-year old Ben Stiller-directed flick, which provided Jim Carrey the chance to go full-on eccentric weirdo for $20 million in 1996. The reviews of the day weren’t much kinder than my current assessment, and it hasn’t passed the test of time or blossomed through the years, somewhat surprisingly given the comedic talent involved both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Some may argue that the movie is an unheralded masterpiece, and it has earned cult classic status among a certain group of Gen-Xers and millennials. But the movie is kind of boring, only somewhat bizarre (it’s not nearly strange enough throughout to match Carrey’s maniacal turn), and something I’m perfectly fine not seeing again for two more decades.
Like many comedic films, the story is less a coherent narrative that flows from point A to B then C, rather than a collection of comedic setpieces designed to showcase Carrey’s insanity. You won’t recall the story, so much as you’ll remember moments: the scene at Medieval Times when Carrey’s Chip and Matthew Broderick’s Steven joust; the Jefferson Airplane karaoke party; or Chip pressing his nipple against the prison’s visitor glass, cooing, “Oh, Billyyyyy,” in an attempt to get Steven…raped, I guess? Ok, maybe the film does match Carrey’s lunacy level at times, but not enough to stretch into 96 minutes. And, credit where credit is due, the court case playing out in the background throughout, where Stiller plays twin brothers on trial for murdering their parents, a la the Menendez Brothers, is hilarious. But 3 cumulative minutes of entertainment don’t wipe away the other 90+ minutes of relative garbage.
Honestly, the most glaring flaw in the film is Matthew Broderick’s utter failure to accurately portray a man sliding slowly, but surely, into despair and madness. This is not a knock on Broderick as an actor, or to say he’s untalented or unworthy of his place in the pantheon of American film icons. Ferris Bueller doesn’t need to prove a damn thing to anyone, people, and certainly doesn’t need to prove his skills to a nobody blogger online. Plus, to say the man is unable to portray a straight-laced man’s descent into indecency would be an appalling insult to the thespian, given he so brilliantly played a different side of the same coin three years later in Election. Perhaps he used his time on set of The Cable Guy to hone his abilities with this type of role for the far superior film later on, because, goodness gracious, does he miss the mark in this one.
It’s not entirely his fault, either, as the character of Steven is bland yet grating, a person lacking any appealing features of his personality or being, other than “played by Matthew Broderick.” I can’t remember what he’s supposed to do for work, or how he seems to have such a large group of friends, acquaintances and family, but he’s living a rather charmed life when the film begins. He is recently single and trying to reconcile with his ex, sure, but the only problem in his world at the start seems to be the lack of instant cable television access when he moves into a new place. He wants his MTV, really badly, and waiting anxiously during the cable company’s vast window of time for an installer to arrive (because you couldn’t set up your own cable back in the day!) is a bummer for the man.
Steven then foolishly, and completely unbelievably, allows Carrey’s unhinged Chip, a human tick, to burrow into his life after the ladder installs his cable. Chip is insatiable and inescapable once Steven calls him his friend, proceeding to tear his life apart at the seams. By the end, Chip has cost Steven his job (whatever it was), turned his family, and the ex-girlfriend he’s on the verge of reuniting with, against him, and driven him to a state of bedlam. I think, at least? I’m reading the plot summary on Wikipedia and, despite watching this film less than a week ago, I didn’t recall Chip kidnapping Steven’s girlfriend, before leaping to his non-death at the end of the story.
If nothing else, you can’t deny Broderick’s willingness to share or completely cede the spotlight to his co-star, given his straight man role against Carrey’s comedic whirlwind. I recognize this and acknowledge that, in part, this fact contributed to his lacking presence on screen. It’s by design that nobody remembers anything about The Cable Guy outside of the rubbery actor’s lisping affectation, and maybe that’s all we were supposed to take from the film. It’s just that, I don’t know, maybe they could have written, shot, and released a movie that gave us a fully formed viewing experience, and not just a sketch comedy piece mercilessly stretched out to feature length? It’s just a thought.