This slapdash farce, intended as a showcase for stand-up comic Steve Oedekerk, was misleadingly marketed as a Jim Carrey vehicle. HIGH STRUNG amounts to a live-in-concert film morphed into a plot, of sorts. The scene is the apartment of manic children's book author Thane Furrows, pressured by a looming deadline for Shangri-La books (publisher of "Happy...read more
This slapdash farce, intended as a showcase for stand-up comic Steve Oedekerk, was misleadingly marketed as a Jim Carrey vehicle.
HIGH STRUNG amounts to a live-in-concert film morphed into a plot, of sorts. The scene is the apartment of manic children's book author Thane Furrows, pressured by a looming deadline for Shangri-La books (publisher of "Happy the Clam"). Unable to face such work, Furrows raves like a guy on Open
Mike Night about everything that annoys or confounds him, including breakfast cereal, popsicles, what flies think, what smokers think, table manners for plane-crash cannibals, pets, and the criminal justice system. Sudden visits from friends, enemies, and his bitchy editor only add to Thane's bile
and inspire his catchphrase refrain, "I didn't ask for this! I didn't ask to be born! I wish I were dead!" That's where Jim Carrey comes in. All day long Thane has been glimpsing his grimacing face warning "Eight o'clock ... eight o'clock." The phantom is Death himself, coming at the appointed
hour to take Thane away. In Death's taxi, however, Thane continues his harangue until even Death can take no more and disgustedly returns him to the land of the living.
It happened to Madonna. It happened to Stallone. It happened to Kevin Costner in multiples. When performers break through to superstardom, previously-unreleased motion pictures they made back in hungrier days suddenly pop up, often to the superstars' great embarrassment (Costner sued over the
use of his likeness to promote the video obscurity CHASING DREAMS, in which his screen time totalled a few minutes). Thus Jim Carrey, flush with the 1994 successes of ACE VENTURA--PET DETECTIVE and THE MASK, flushed with shame at the sudden appearance of HIGH STRUNG on home video. Carrey made no
secret of his displeasure when the 1991 production--in which he participated with the provision that his name not appear in any credits or ads--resurfaced.
On balance, Steve Oedekerk's monologues are fairly funny, mixing Denis Leary's hostile energy with Jerry Seinfeld's urban obsessions with the minutiae of the everyday. In massive doses his rants can become somewhat tedious, but TV director Roger Nygard breaks up the visual monotony with
eccentric, practically neurotic camera moves. HIGH STRUNG was shot in three weeks (that long?), after Oedekerk and producer Rubin Mendoza had been trying to get the project off the ground for two years; they eventually found backing via a pair of prosperous Russian emigres eager to get into movie
production. HIGH STRUNG only circulated at scattered film festivals, however, until Carrey's fleeting presence made it irresistibly marketable in 1994.
Oedekerk was writing for Carrey's TV variety show "In Living Color" when he persuaded the future box-office sensation to take his small but strangely prescient role. Doing crazy facial contortions and uttering weird groans, Carrey looks like he's rehearsing THE MASK. Still, HIGH STRUNG is hardly
a career humiliation (that dishonor should be reserved for the vampire sex farce ONCE BITTEN, in which a youthful Carrey co-starred), and, aside from the Carrey treatment, deserves recognition as a genuinely offbeat item with minor cult potential. At least the opportunist video distributors
avoided hyping it as a Kirsten Dunst vehicle as well--the underage leading lady of 1994's horror blockbuster INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE also turns up in a bit part. (Profanity.)
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