review for The Cable Guy on AllMovie

The Cable Guy (1996)
by Derek Armstrong review

A vastly underappreciated film and the target of much critical scorn, Ben Stiller's The Cable Guy might have been better understood were it not both Jim Carrey's first $20 million payday and a major departure from the lighthearted outings that brought him huge box-office success. Carrey is brilliant as a lonely cable installer who overstays his welcome, pathologically latching onto customers to breed companionship from brief encounters. But the movie wouldn't be such a compelling study of the complexity of ending an unwanted friendship were it not for the subtle performance by Matthew Broderick, who balances out the hyperactive Carrey and struggles with how to handle this enthusiastic pest. With a savvy media critic like Stiller at the helm, The Cable Guy is actually more of a wicked satire of popular culture than a Jim Carrey vehicle. Lou Holtz's screenplay is a succession of dynamite set pieces: a testosterone-laden basketball game, a creepy game of "Porno Password" at a family dinner, a gonzo karaoke jam, and a duel with real weapons at a Medieval Times theme restaurant, which is the film's most memorable scene. The key is that each represents the increasingly unbalanced Carrey's attempt to mimic something he's seen on TV, which serves as his only behavioral guideline and standard for how his life should be. Stiller's own turn as a famous child actor involved in a televised murder trial lends backbone to the film's biting satirical thread. A supporting cast that includes Jack Black, George Segal, Leslie Mann, and Andy Dick adds humor and depth to the dark commentary, and Stiller's inventive camerawork elevates the film further. The Cable Guy may one day earn the reputation of an overlooked gem in the rich careers of both Carrey and Stiller.