This was the beginning of the end right here. Oh sure, more comedies would follow. In fact, there would be a steady stream of comedic roles, tempered with dramas and lighter fare, leading up to and throughout the first half of the 21st century. Jim Carrey's comedic gifts wouldn't totally disappear, they are uniquely tied to who he is and his creative process. However, his gifts wouldn't have the freedom and boldness they did in 1996 when The Cable Guy was released. He wouldn't put himself out there like that again. The response to the film by the public and critics was negative, and despite the cushion of a 25 million dollar payday, he did not come away unscathed. Looking back, you have to wonder what people were thinking when they panned this film. What about it did they find so off-putting? It's a remarkably deep and multi-layered comedy, something Charlie Kaufman would write if he were more linear and sophomoric. On the surface, it's the story of a friendship gone awry. The film stars Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick), a 30-something Gen X working stiff who's on the outs with his girl after a botched proposal. In walks Chip Douglas (Carrey), the cable guy sent to hook up Steve's new bachelor pad. Trying to describe Jim Carrey as Chip Douglas is akin to trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Let's just say he is very weird, high strung, invasive, and funny. He also has a pronounced lisp. What begins as an awkward friendship, blossoms into a hilariously disturbing tale of false identities, creepy obsession, media saturation, and Gen X malaise. Holding it all together at the center is Carrey, who as expected, brought his madcap antics and rubber-faced glee, but tempered them with longing and genuine emotions of hurt and loneliness that were really touching and shocking when his character went over the edge. Were people put off by seeing Jim Carrey in a dark comedy? I can't fathom that being the real reason. The Cable Guy may have pushed the envelope here and there in a few places, but it wasn't a dark comedy. I think that phrase is thrown around too much nowadays. To me, dark comedies are films like Trainspotting and Heathers. Is The Cable Guy as darkly comedic as those movies? Heck, no! Compared to Heathers, The Cable Guy is positively cheerful. Carrey's performance isn't dark at all; in fact, it's more understated than his performances in The Mask and Ace Ventura (actually, any performance is understated compared to those) so that may have thrown his core audience for a loop. It certainly wasn't on the level of Christian Slater blowing away jocks and planting bombs in schools. It was different, but at the same time it wasn't. It was a new avenue for Carrey to explore, but he explored it using the same tools he always does. He just channeled his rubber faced powers down a more somber path yet still hilarious path. As much as I like to see Carrey talk out of his butt and swing dance with Cameron Diaz, I can appreciate a comedian who wants to use his/her ability to dig deep into a character in search of a personal revelation of whatever that character is trying to convey, be it loneliness, craziness, happiness, or revenge. Carrey's performance was coupled with Ben Stiller's great direction, which deftly balanced laugh out loud, thought-provoking humor with a brilliant critique of TV-influenced, Gen X culture of the '90s. The result made The Cable Guy not just an underrated comedy, but the greatest comedy of the '90s, maybe even of the past 20 years. Let's take a look at some key scenes which demonstrate the worth of this film. Spoilers, obviously.