Jim Carrey calls “The Cable Guy” a chance to stretch as an actor and show fans another side of him.
Yep. Just as every Big Mac is a chance for McDonald’s to stretch as a restaurant and show us another side of the all-beef patty.
I can recommend it to anyone who’ll howl with pleasure as Carrey imitates a blinded bull, tongues Matthew Broderick’s ear or drapes chicken skins over his face to do an impression of Hannibal Lecter. He doesn’t ever show his butt (except metaphorically speaking), but he showboats as crazily as in “Ace Ventura” or “The Mask.”
He’s a master at moron humor, and he’s occasionally witty. But isn’t it time he headlined a movie with rounded characters and a plot? He claims Jerry Lewis as an inspiration, but Lewis could inspire pathos; Carrey, grabbing for our heartstrings, gives us indigestion.
He plays a nameless, hugely needy cable installer who latches onto a schlump named Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick, sultan of schlumps). Soon he’s giving Steven stereo equipment, dating advice and more attention than any human being needs. But when Steven makes up with his estranged girl friend (Leslie Mann, who’s wasted), there’s no room in his day for his new, clingy companion.
Now the movie turns into “Cable Attraction.” The installer gets Steven arrested and fired, then worms his way into Steven’s family and love life. The last “Goldeneye”-like scene, awkward and unjustified, brings things to a lame conclusion.
Writer Lou Holtz Jr. and director Ben Stiller (who has a funny cameo as an accused killer) needed to make the film scarier, turning Cable Guy into a veritable demon. Instead, they vacillate between comedy and attempted thrills like a TV set with a broken vertical hold.
Carrey apparently can’t play menace - except the buffoonish kind, as he did in “Batman Forever” - and he’s too loud and clownish to earn tears. So he remains the same demented, insincere sprite from beginning to end, and you wonder why Robin or Steven’s family can’t see through him in 30 seconds.
Maybe, after six leading roles, Carrey has shown us all his moves. His affected lisp, jutting jaw and mean, smarmy insinuations are familiar.
Though he uses his big body - often a handicap for a comic - with manic glee, his rubbery face and limbs have limits. He should remember that rubber hardens as it gets older and crumbles to dust.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “The Cable Guy” Locations: Lyons, Lincoln Heights, Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Ben Stiller, starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick Running time: 1:35 Rating: PG-13