A thin collection of comic constructs, the latest entry from Jim Carrey is a career switch attached to a dimmer board. And while some of its antic set pieces are genuinely funny, this fuzzy-focus outing is hopelessly disconnected and ultimately unsatisfying. Carrey’s past record assures an initial strong response, but once word filters out about pic’s low wattage, its commercial lights will quickly flicker and fade.
The premise is quite simple.Architect Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) has been bounced by his girlfriend, Robin
(Leslie Mann), after proposing marriage. He moves into a new apartment and waits for the cable service technician to hook him up.
The cable guy, Chip Douglas (Carrey), is an electronics geek who is alternately bizarre and compassionate. Steven, in a moment of weakness, makes the mistake of agreeing to join him on a pilgrimage to the satellite dish where all electromagnetic signals converge. The act of kindness earns him an ever-present fatal distraction that threatens to ruin his relationship with Robin, which he’s trying to salvage, his job and mental stability.
It’s an intriguing enough jumping-off point. But scripter Lou Holtz Jr., director Ben Stiller, Carrey and Broderick are all at a loss as to how to further the story.
Instead of a narrative progression, we are beset with a series of situations marked by mayhem.
The two men lay waste to each other and to the Medieval Times restaurant, Chip finagles an invitation for dinner at Steven’s parents’ home and introduces the family to Porno Password, and an outlandish evening of karaoke with Chip’s preferred customers ruptures the hapless designer’s confidence and tolerance.
When Steven finally unplugs from Chip, the cable guy channels all his energy into zapping him right out of his relatively mundane routine.
It’s a schematic revenge that goes right to the wire of credulity.
After its first surge of energy, the film goes on the blink and never recovers. Carrey’s character lacks the empathy or poignance to command ongoing interest, and Broderick’s role strains one’s patience because he’s hopelessly dimwitted and slow to react in any way vaguely resembling human behavior. It’s a wholly disorienting experience, and Stiller is unable to provide a rooting interest for either of the protagonists.
Though there are flashes here of what makes Carrey a unique and arresting screen personality, his pathological character is mainly revolting: The emphasis is on Chip’s most unpleasant, bullying traits. He acts, dresses and lisps in a socially repellent fashion, with the sheerest of pop-psych apologia tacked on.
Broderick’s Steve is no better, a seemingly spineless somnambulist. Viewers will come perilously close to concluding that he deserves what’s dished out to him.
Stiller gets scant support from Holtz’s screenplay and accentuates its thinness by directing “The Cable Guy” as if it were sketch comedy.
Tech credits are generally professional. But the picture suffers from a lighting design that leans too obviously toward the darker elements of the text.
It’s uncertain whether Carrey’s fans will be satisfied with the sprinkling of laughs that punctuates the film’s many misfired indulgences. The likely outcome is that the picture will be a commercial disappointment, and the actor will have to find better material to stretch his talents.