Yes Man (2008) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude sexual humor, brief nudity and language
Running time: 104 min.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Terence Stamp, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Molly Sims, Danny Masterson, Fionnula Flanagan, Sasha Alexander
Cameo: Luis Guzman
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenplay: Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel (based on the book by Danny Wallace)
Review published December 25, 2009
A fictional adaptation based on the autobiographical book by Danny Wallace, Yes Man stars Jim Carrey (Horton Hears a Who, The Number 23) as Carl Allen, a bank loan officer who becomes a bit of a hermit after a divorce, repeatedly declining invitations (when he bothers to answer his phone at all) from his dwindling friends to socialize while he spends most evenings alone watching his television. His life takes an unexpected turn when an old friend convinces him to attend a self-help seminar that inspires him to say yes to everything, assured that only good things may come of taking life up at every opportunity. His new philosophy on life becomes unpredictable, but he finds happiness in meeting new people, sparking a new love interest, better success at his career, and even his ex becomes impressed at the new Carl. But Carl soon learns that sometimes opening one door of opportunity means you have to close others.
Yes Man marks a return for Jim Carrey back to his roots of gimmicky high-concept comedy ideas that ride on his charmingly goofy personality reacting to a variety of situations based on some metamorphosis to his initial average-guy persona (see Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty). If you're a fan of Carrey's earlier comedic work, there is a comfort factor involved in seeing Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey, even if it doesn't have the dark edge or satiric bite of his classic Carrey performances. At this stage of his career, the box office returns aren't as great, and Yes Man isn't likely to be mentioned among most viewers top five favorite Carrey roles, but the goods are delivered in terms of laughs and interesting comedic distractions.`
Peyton Reed (The Break-Up, Down with Love) continues his visually appealing flair for light comedies, particularly in the quirky romance department, and when the film works its best is in the more quaintly geeky moments involving Carl's love interest, Allison (Deschanel, The Happening), in her artsy new wave band and Carl's boss, Norman, and his exuberance for offbeat things, including a Harry Potter themed party.
The story's momentum begins to deflate somewhat, along with its light tone, when complications set in during a mix-up at the airport where Carl gets in some serious trouble with the authorities, and then with Allison. Not only is this heavy-handed story device too weighty for such a lightweight comedy, but it paints its main romantic players in petty, unflattering light, and we wonder if these two have the maturity and communication skills to ever be happy with one another. It must also be said that one of the reasons that Carrey may not be able to continue down this road for long is that he is a man who is approaching 50, and what was cute and endearing behavior in ones 20s and 30s starts to become sad and creepy with maturity. Carl's sputtering courtship of 20-something Allison is slightly encroaching into "ick" territory, as he comes off as a middle-aged man in need of therapy much more than as the dreamy object of an free-spirited young woman's eye. He's more likely to be given a restraining order from a girl like Allison rather than the time of day.
Yes Man is not much more than comfort food for those hungry for Carrey's return to manic form, but the premise gives him enough of a playground to dish out his more benignly charming shtick to good success. While certainly not much of a stretch for Carrey to pull off, it does serve as a reminder of some of the things we enjoyed about Carrey's on-screen persona. Now fans will hope he can build on it, rather than still engage in juvenile antics until he's too long in the tooth to find funny in the role anymore.
©2009 Vince Leo