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Every time I watch THE CABLE GUY ($30), I find myself liking this black comedy more and more. I know that I’ll find myself in the minority when I say that this is Jim Carrey’s best film, but at times this biting social satire teeters on brilliance. Jim Carrey stars as the title character, a maladjusted sociopath, raised by his television set. Carrey’s character lives in an isolated world several channels away from reality, and even goes by the name of television show character Chip Douglas (MY THREE SONS). Hoping to reach beyond his television-induced cocoon and make genuine human contact, Chip manages to work his way into the life of cable customer Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick).

At first, Steven doesn’t mind a little companionship from the cable guy, but comes to realize he’s in big trouble when Chip tries to worm his way into every facet of his life. Steven then makes a huge mistake by rebuffing Chip’s continued overtures towards friendship and the cable guy systematically begins to turn Steven’s life into a living nightmare. Director Ben Stiller keeps everything moving at a frantic pace, including the camera, making moments in THE CABLE GUY seem almost surreal. The screenplay by Lou Holtz Jr. isn’t afraid to take aim at the generations that were turned into mesmerized zombies because the "flickering blue baby-sitter" raised them, instead of their parents.

Nor is his screenplay afraid to turn a jaundiced eye at the sensationalism driven news media. Case in point, director Stiller appears throughout THE CABLE GUY in the film’s best running gag about the trial of a former child television star accused of murdering his identical twin brother. There are television news updates about the trial, plus other reports which recount how one twin ran afoul of the law when his show was cancelled, and how the other ended up in a religious cult. Even before there is even a verdict in the trial, the whole mess gets turned into a sleazy, exploitive made-for-television movie starring Eric Roberts. This is art imitating life at a hilarious, but ultimately disturbing level. Is it any wonder THE CABLE GUY wasn’t a huge hit at the box office? The film’s target audience was the butt of its biggest joke. The cast of THE CABLE GUY also features Leslie Mann, Jack Black, George Segal, Diane Baker, Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers THE CABLE GUY in both Letterboxed and pan and scan transfers on opposite sides of the DVD. The pan and scan transfer crops far too much of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio to be enjoyable. However, the picture is sharp and colorful. The Letterboxed transfer features the 16:9 anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions and restores most of the film’s ‘scope framing. Heck, this transfer is an absolute winner. Do the words "absolutely drop-dead gorgeous" strike a nerve? Well, that’s about the best way to describe the Letterboxed transfer. The image is sharp, and finely detailed. Colors are lush and spectacular. Robert Brinkmann’s beautiful cinematography is more than well served by this transfer. Digital compression artifacts were hardly a problem on the Letterboxed version, but were slightly more noticeable on the pan and scan presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a great mix, which uses the discrete channels quite well. There is always something interesting in the mix and the soundtrack should be played loud to get the full effect. Other soundtrack options include matrixed Dolby Surround, plus French and Spanish language tracks. Subtitles are available in Spanish and Korean.

Like I stated above, I think THE CABLE GUY is a great black comedy and Jim Carrey’s best film. The DVD edition is a knockout and will make an excellent edition to most collections. Recommended.


The Cable Guy (1996)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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