The Cable Guy (1996)

Is it just me, or is “The Cable Guy” pretty mediocre? I mean, on the one hand it has the distinction of being the first Jim Carrey movie that diverted from his family-friendly output like “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “The Mask,” instead adopting a darker, edgier and bitter tone. I always like these kinds of movies, the ones where an established movie star takes a risk and it’s always more fascinating when it’s a comedic performer doing the switch-up, but here, it just feels like window dressing: Despite its edgier corners, this is unmistakably a Jim Carrey movie: His performance is, in a word, insufferable. It’s an overbearing, screechy mess of a performance that’s neither funny nor interesting, and starts to grate on the nerves alarmingly quickly. Matthew Broderick does the best he can as Carrey’s straight man, but it’s like shouting into the wind: There’s no way to make sense of Carrey’s performance or to develop believable dynamics between the characters, so Broderick becomes the narrative equivalent of a man alone on an island, left to flounder while his co-star spends his screentime aggressively mugging for the camera like an over-caffeinated toddler at a family reunion. There are some genuinely fascinating themes bubbling under the surface that often come close to diffusing the movie’s manic tone, in particular social isolation, issues of traditional masculinity, and the corrosive influence of an irresponsible media apparatus, but it’s all lost in the high-pitched chaos of Carrey’s unrestrained need for attention. If I did half-stars, this would get two-and-a-half, but since I don’t, I’d say it edges closer to three stars than two, but only thanks to Broderick’s endearing aw-shucks charm.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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