Expert witness: The Cable Guy on Blu-ray
Dave Kehr reassesses Ben Stiller's edgy comedy fifteen years later
In his weekly DVD column for the New York Times, Dave Kehr revisits "The Cable Guy," the 1996 comedy with shifts into dark humor and social satire. It was the second feature directed by Ben Stiller, who had just come off "Reality Bites" but whose own comic instincts were expressed in his short-lived "The Ben Stiller Show," and it featured rising comedy phenomenon Jim Carrey, who was a live action cartoon character in his biggest hits ("Ace Ventura," "The Mask," "Dumb and Dumber") but much more daring on the skit comedy series "In Living Color." Together, they set out to make a darker, edgier film than the studio expected from them.
Writes Kehr: "Looking back, “The Cable Guy” seems like a seminal film, not only for the careers it sputteringly helped to start (it contains early appearances by Leslie Mann, Jack Black, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, David Cross and Owen Wilson) but also for the striking new tone it helped to establish…. It was one of the first “cringe comedies,” in which the humor is grounded in the painful humiliations experienced by its protagonist — in this case, a wonderfully stoic Matthew Broderick…"
The film wasn't exactly a flop but hardly the hit they had come to expect from Carrey. The new Blu-ray edition, which features new commentary by director Stiller, star Carrey (his first commentary track) and producer Judd Apatow (yes, yet another future comedy trendmaker involved in this film) and 24 minutes of deleted and extended scenes among the supplements, suggests that the filmmakers were already pulling their punches under pressure from the studio. Writes Kehr: "the unusually extensive collection of deleted scenes and extended sequences make clear that the film was even darker and more daring at some point in its evolution, presumably before it started being chopped in reaction to preview audiences."
"The Cable Guy: 15th Anniversary Edition" debuts on Blu-ray this week from Sony. Along with the above-mentioned supplements, this disc features 17 minutes of rehearsal footage, Leslie Mann's audition tape, a camera test with Carrey, a music video and two made-for-TV promotional featurettes: "HBO First Look: The Cable Guy" and "Comedy Central Canned Ham Presents The Cable Guy," with lots of clips and light interview snippets.
Somebody call for the cable guy?