Critics' Corner

Rita Kempley - Style section,
"A series of genuinely hilarious set pieces."

Desson Howe - Weekend section, "If you're waiting for Jim Carrey's battery to go dead, don't hold your breath."


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'The Cable Guy'

Scene from this movie Jim Carrey's cable guy is hours late when he arrives at the partially unpacked new apartment of Steven (Matthew Broderick). The bland young architect's girlfriend, Robin, has told him she needed some space, so he's moved out and is hoping to fill the void with cable. Acting on a friend's advice, he offers Chip $50 to throw in the premium channels for free. But Chip wants love, not money.

To that end, the Cable Guy woos Steven, giving him an expensive new entertainment system, taking him to dinner at a medieval theme restaurant, even helping him win back the lackluster Robin. Steven, who is appreciative at first, soon feels threatened by the other man's intrusiveness and politely asks him to back off. But before you can bring a bunny stew to a boil, the vengeful Cable Guy has completely sabotaged Steven's life. -- Rita Kempley
Rated PG-13


Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Jim Carrey; Matthew Broderick;
Leslie Mann
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Filmographies: Jim Carrey; Matthew Broderick




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Carrey: 'Cable' Rowdy

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 14, 1996

If you're waiting for Jim Carrey's battery to go dead, don't hold your breath. The comedian seems to recharge himself as he goes along. In "The Cable Guy," he's a cable installer with a psychotic difference, a lispy-voiced cross between Robert De Niro's Max Cady in "Cape Fear" and Kevin Spacey's Verbal Kint in "The Usual Suspects." And as new cable customer Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) discovers, there's no end to his insidious, inspired lunacy.

Steven's girlfriend Robin (Leslie Mann) has asked him to move out so they can redefine the relationship. He's lonely in his new place and he needs cable. When he clumsily tries to bribe the Cable Guy (Carrey) with $50 for unlimited channel access, it's the biggest mistake of his life. The bizarre technician, who goes by "Chip" (one of his many lies, we find out), rejects the money but not the offer. He'll set Steven up with anything-including giant TV screen, karaoke machine and monster speakers-if he'll just be his pal.

Unfortunately, Chip is a lonely obsessive with nothing to do but follow, harass and worship Steven. He even tries to get his "friend" back together with Robin. But when Steven attempts to break away, he gets the Cable Guy mad-real mad.

"The Cable Guy," directed by Ben Stiller, is unmistakably dark. Playing constantly in the background, for instance, is the televised trial of Sam Sweet, accused of murdering his twin brother, Stan (both roles played by Stiller); the circus event's hilarious similarities to the Menendez trial are not accidental.

Carrey's at his darkest too. There's an edge to everything he does, whether he's throwing chicken skin on his face to do a "Silence of the Lambs" joke or screeching and twitching to a Jefferson Airplane song at a karaoke party full of senior citizens. But at the heart of the Cable Guy (and, it seems, Carrey) is a lonely fella who simply wants to please, shock and amuse people 24 hours a day.

"Hold on!" he yells, after inviting himself into a pickup basketball game with Steven and his friends. "I gotta warm up. I don't wanna get a hammie!"

When the game starts, the Cable Guy gets a little too excited. In a slow-motion, "Raging Bull"-style moment, he literally runs up the back of one player to deliver a slam dunk. The backboard shatters and the Cable Guy plunges to the floor in a sea of cascading glass.

"I love this game!" he says.

As the gentle, eternally exasperated Steven, Broderick's donation to the comic mix is subtle but no less important. He's especially amusing when he's forced by Carrey to participate in a game of "Porno Password" in which he must make his mother guess the words for some pretty embarrassing body parts. To watch Carrey leering with joy at the prospect of making respectable people guess dirty words, and Broderick trying to avoid the whole thing, is to enjoy their best comic synergy.

THE CABLE GUY (PG-13) - Contains sexual situations, profanity and every kind of innuendo.."

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'Dumber & Darker'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 14, 1996

Jim Carrey shifts from simpleton to psycho in "The Cable Guy," a grating and sinister comedy on the dangers of television. This mean-spirited marriage of cautionary tale and thriller-satire follows the increasingly vicious antics of a deranged cable installer who stalks a preferred customer. It's "Fatal Attraction" for couch potatoes.

Carrey's cable guy, who calls himself Ernie "Chip" Douglas, is hours late when he arrives at the partially unpacked new apartment of Steven (a boardlike Matthew Broderick). The bland young architect's girlfriend, Robin (Leslie Mann), has told him she needed some space, so he's moved out and is hoping to fill the void with cable. Acting on a friend's advice, he offers Chip $50 to throw in the premium channels for free. But Chip wants love, not money.

To that end, the Cable Guy woos Steven, giving him an expensive new entertainment system, taking him to dinner at a medieval theme restaurant, even helping him win back the lackluster Robin. Steven, who is appreciative at first, soon feels threatened by the other man's intrusiveness and politely asks him to back off. But before you can bring a bunny stew to a boil, the vengeful Cable Guy has completely sabotaged Steven's life. The poor shlub is imprisoned, fired, redumped and disowned.

Directed by Ben Stiller from a much-doctored screenplay credited to Lou Holtz Jr., the film exploits Carrey's hyper energy and pliable physique, but it eschews his sophomoric high jinks. The erstwhile butt ventriloquist, who took home $20 million for his efforts, is cooking all right, but not with gas.

Some might find this change of pace a step up for the crude comedian: "The Cable Guy" does have a plot, in addition to a series of genuinely hilarious set pieces. Still, it's primarily a showcase for Carrey's dark side. Unlike Ace Ventura and the Dumber Guy, whose idiocy excused their misbehavior, the Cable Guy is clearly both clever and knowingly cruel.

And yet we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he's lonely. Well, so was the twisted sister who terrorized Clint Eastwood in "Play Misty for Me" (one of many stalker flicks quoted here). For that matter, so was the Unabomber. Many actors would be able to play the creepy Cable Guy sympathetically, but Carrey isn't entirely ready to submerge his comic persona.

Stiller, also the director of the acerbic "Flirting With Disaster," must have hoped to induce boob-tubal ligations across America with this one. Alas, he merely makes you wonder what you're missing on the Movie Channel.

The Cable Guy is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.

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