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CABLE GUY, THE(director: Ben Stiller; screenwriter: Lou Holtz Jr.; cinematographer: Robert Brinkmann; editor: Steven Weisberg; music: John Ottman; cast: Jim Carrey (Chip Douglas, Cable Guy), Matthew Broderick (Steven), Leslie Mann (Robin), Ben Stiller (Sam Sweet), Janeane Garofalo (Waitress), Eric Roberts (himself), Jack Black (Rick), George Segal (Steven’s Father), Diane Baker (Steven’s Mother), Owen Wilson (Robin’s Date), Misa Koprova (Heather), Harry O’Reilly (Hal), Andy Dick (Medieval Times Host); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Andrew Licht/Jeffrey A. Mueller/Judd Apatow; Columbia Pictures; 1996)
“The writer and director can’t keep pace with the dark places Carrey takes the script.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ben Stiller (“Reality Bites”/”Tropic Thunder”/”Zoolander”) directs this dark black comedy scripted by Lou Holtz Jr. An energetic zany performance by Jim Carrey as the cable guy runs amok, as the writer and director can’t keep pace with the dark places Carrey takes the script. Its best feature turns out to be its constant zings at crappy TV programming geared to an addicted audience.

After proposing marriage nice guy but spineless architect Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) is jilted by his girlfriend Robin (Leslie Mann) and forced to move into his own apartment. The over-friendly and weirdo cable technician, Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey), with a lisp, installs the cable in Steven’s new crib and agrees to fix it so that Steven becomes a preferred customer with illegal free channels. The catch is the lonely and socially awkward Chip wants a buddy to hang out with, with broad hints at a homoerotic relationship. Steven is roped into joining the aggressive Chip the next day on an outing to the mountain-top satellite dish where all the signals converge. After that he can’t shake free from the clinging Chip, who moves from a compassionate wannabe friend to a terrorizing menace causing him nightmares. In a sinister way, Chip tells his potential pal “I can be your best friend or your worst enemy.”

After that fast start on the first cable visit, the narrative becomes a disjointed number of skits showing Steven dogged by the needy psychopathic Chip who tries to curry favor with the uptight architect by helping him in strange ways to win back his girlfriend. Mayhem occurs at every turn, from a riotous pick-up basketball game Chip has with Steven’s professional friends to a scary near-death joust with Chip (attired with battle armor, swords, axes, maces and jousting lances) at a Medieval Times themed restaurant to a home party at Steven’s that has Chip performing a quirky karaoke rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody to Love?’ to Steven coming to the rescue of Robin from the crazed Chip at the mountain-top satellite dish site.

It has its moments of crazy fun, but there’s a limit to how long all the heavy-handed satire can be entertaining.

Carrey was handsomely paid $20 million to act crazy, and if you can ride along with Carrey’s nutso performance you’ll probably be satisfied with this uneven but ambitious film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”