Jim Carrey stars as a creepy cable guy who wastes no time in stalking Matthew Broderick and ruining his life. It’s a 90’s comedy — it takes a simple concept and plays it straight, focusing on the crazy antics and throwing in extra weird stuff, like a medieval-themed restaurant. The two stars are both likable and fun to watch, and they’re supported with a lot of other fun actors (Andy Dick and Owen Wilson are great, although Jack Black isn’t given anything to work with).
The film, however, was a critical flop.
It’s too dark for what the audience was expecting, since Carrey had previously risen to the peak of his career playing more wholesome or at least likeable and more-or-less redeemed characters in Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask. Audiences who expected his typical wacky schtick were nonplussed to see his typical wacky schtick, but with slightly more evil thrown in. Carrey’s unexpectedly evil side is the generally accepted reasoning behind why an otherwise decent film flopped, but I have another theory. I think he wasn’t evil enough.
Think about it: Carrey certainly starts out with potential: the first half of the film centers on the suspense of just how creepy the guy is, and whether or not he’s totally evil or a potentially redeemable guy. Then, he starts to get worse. He’s the villain. But after you learn this information, he stops getting worse! He just kind of meanders around threatening people and fooling them into thinking he’s the sane one. In the end, he even gets a redeeming moment by explaining his sad, abandoned childhood. The whole thing is a letdown, given the direction that the first half of the film seemed to be going.
In order to get a strong clash of wills at the end, Carrey needed to keep amping up his evil into supervillain levels. He has the chops for crazy evil. But instead, he settles for a mostly bad but sorta okayish lame guy.