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The Cable Guy
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chip flashes back on a childhood where he was neglected by his mom and abandoned by his father. Chip was raised by TV, and embodies all the warnings about what too much TV does to people: he becomes a sociopath, stealing, lying, blackmailing, and manipulating because he doesn't know how to have relationships. There's also considerable comic violence in this film, including people getting beat up and the main characters brandish swords and battle axes and joust at a medieval-themed restaurant. A character threatens suicide and jumps, but doesn't die.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Imagine growing up with TV as your parent: It teaches you how to behave, what's appropriate, and what's healthy in relationships and in life. Scary. That's what happened to Chip (Jim Carrey), who has Jerry Springer's pop wisdom, sports movies' unbridled machismo, and a soap-operatic view of love. In other words, he's a sociopath. Meanwhile, Steven (Matthew Broderick) just wants his cable hooked up. Chip is the tardy and over-the-top guy who hooks him up. Right away, Chip is too familiar, too clingy, and too interested in being Steven's friend. Soon, he's shanghai'ing Steven into a trip up to see the cable satellite and showing up unbidden at a pickup basketball game. He's loud, he quotes too many TV shows and movies, and he has no social skills. When Steven tires of Chip's inappropriate antics, he snubs Chip. And suddenly Chip shows his dark side. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game that's sometimes rollicking fun and sometimes cringe-worthy.
Is it any good?
There are some truly crazy scenes here. The battle between Steven and Chip at Medieval Times is hilarious, as is the karaoke scene. This is vintage Carrey, before he took himself seriously as an actor. He's all funny faces and off-the-wall voices.
This is also a film by Ben Stiller, who cameos as Sam Sweet, the former child star accused of killing his twin. Stiller is obsessed with pop culture references, and there are a lot in the film. But remember: this is a morality tale of what happens when parents leave their children to be raised by TV. At one point, Chip laments, "I am the bastard son of Claire Huxtable. I am the lost Cunningham. I learned the facts of life from watching The Facts of Life." There's nothing subtle here. If you agree with the message, you'll enjoy the movie. If not, it may be too grating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family rules that limit TV watching. Why do you have those rules? Do adults follow them, too? The film is a great opportunity to help children become savvier media consumers: are the relationships they see on TV healthy relationships? Do people in movies show their passion for each other by fighting? When you fight in real life, how does it feel? What's the difference between hyperbole for theatrical effect and real-life behavior? How much do you pattern your behavior off what you see on TV?