The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

I am a Jim Carrey fan. I am not, so far, a fan of movies in which Jim Carrey appears, but Jim Carrey, the man, makes me laugh out loud, even when he isn't doing anything especially funny. He just is funny, intrinsically, it seems to me. (Peter Chelsom would call him a "funny bones" comedian, I imagine.) Those who feel otherwise will find nothing of interest in The Cable Guy; those who agree, unfortunately, won't find much of interest, either, apart from Carrey's usual antics (which are typically hilarious). This film is reportedly the first step in Carrey's bid to gradually shed his rubberface, lovable-nut image and move into darker -- perhaps even dramatic -- territory; I'm rooting for him, but this is a misguided, ineffective effort which ineptly grafts the wacko-who-won't-go-away thriller (Pacific Heights, Scorsese's Cape Fear) onto the wacko-who-won't-go-away comedy (What About Bob?, Housesitter), diluting the pleasures afforded by both. The thriller/horror aspects are perfunctory at best, with invention and inspiration both conspicuously absent; Ben Stiller, whose background (as far as I know) is entirely in comedy, doesn't seem to know what to do with this material, and flails around for much of the second half of the picture trying in vain to dredge up a sense of menace. (A stupid attempt to "explain" the cable guy's psychosis dramatically via a short flashback doesn't help matters.) He fares better with the funny stuff, but the script is fairly pedestrian, and ultimately it's only Carrey's presence that makes The Cable Guy watchable. For example, in script form, I'm sure that the scene in which the cable guy inveigles his prey (Matthew Broderick, passable in a bland role) into playing "Porno Password" with his (Broderick's) mother would have struck me as criminally unfunny; watching it onscreen, however, I was reduced to helpless giggling just by the silly, mock-confidential way that Carrey says "The password is..." The picture coasts for quite a while on business like this, and on hilarious comic set pieces like Carrey's bizarre karaoke rendition of "Somebody to Love," but in the end it's neither funny enough nor nerve-wracking enough. It's almost funny enough, though.