The Cable Guy (1996) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and crude humor
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Matthew Broderick, Leslie Mann, Jack Black, George Segal, Diane Baker, Ben Stiller, Eric Roberts, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, David Cross, Owen Wilson
Small role: Joel Murray, Kathy Griffin, Bob Odenkirk, Tabitha Soren, Kyle Gass
Director: Ben Stiller
Screenplay: Lou Holtz Jr.
Review published October 14, 1996
Ah, yes. The old Strangers on a Train formula. Unassuming good guy gets mixed up with a well-meaning but clinging psychotic who invades every aspect of his life and when told to go away determines to make his life a living nightmare. Not too long before we had seen it done to a certain extent in the stale comedy Mr. Wrong and here we have it re-emerge in an equally stale The Cable Guy.
Broderick (The Lion King, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) plays Steven Kovacs, out on his own after getting thrown out on his bum Felix Unger-style, who just moves into a new apartment and needs the usual cable installation. Of course Carrey (When Nature Calls, Batman Forever) is the guy who does just that and soon the cable guy imposes himself into Steven's life. The cable guy puts Steven into many infuriating and hazardous situations, although meaning well (he doesn't understand appropriate behavior), until Steven can stand no more and tells him the most dreaded words any clinging psycho dreads to hear: "GO AWAY!" You can guess what happens after that.
As a comedy (albeit a dark one) The Cable Guy doesn't really deliver. Carrey plays his least funny role in a typically over-the-top caricature. I actually thought the film would have been funnier if played straight as they do in most black comedies but Carrey's rep for wild and crazy guys probably prevents him from ever playing anything subdued. The most important failing however is the Broderick character, who never really invokes any sympathy. As a matter of fact the Cable Guy is a wholly sympathetic character and I actually was on the rooting side of the dangerous one.
To top off the mistakes a recurring news flash pops on TV every five minutes or so about a murder case involving one twin killing another in an attempt to set up what director and star Stiller (Flirting with Disaster, Reality Bites) must have thought would be just the most hilarious moment in cinema. It isn't, as it's one of the oldest jokes since the popularization of television and electricity in domestic abodes. The film has a couple of hilarious moments and a handful of decent chuckles sprinkled along the way but not enough for a recommendation of this misfire.
©1996 Vince Leo