Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: December 19, 2008
Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins
By Sean Chavel
"Yes Man" marks the return of the kind of Jim Carrey movie we liked seeing ten years ago. The high concept comedy that Carrey could juice for all its worth. In this one, Carrey plays a sourpuss loan broker who turns says no to everybody around him and turns down his own life. He avoids social gatherings to the point where he misses his best friend’s bachelor party. He puts his cell phone on silent mode all the time. He ducks out of conversations two moments too early. If he’d just give himself and the other person two more moments, great things will happen!
That’s my editorializing, not the movie’s. But anyway, we want to root for Carrey’s character Carl Allen to stop living life like such a loser. Stop giving up before he tries. When Carl goes to a self-empowerment seminar, a motivational guru played by Terrence Stamp challenges him to say “YES!” to everything for now on and reap the rewards. Thousand other seminar attendees are yelling at Carl to say cheese and agree, too. The pressure is on.
The first test is for Carl to drive a homeless man to Elysian Fields. The homeless man uses up the rest of his cell phone minutes. The car gets a flat tire at the end of the destination. Grouchy Carl is left hiking down the trail to a local gas station. The silver lining? He meets an awesome girl! Take note: Her name is Rachel and she’s played by Zooey Deschanel (“Elf,” “The Good Girl”). They will kiss but not go out on a date right away. But remember her because she will re-enter Carl’s life later on.
Carl goes from party pooper to 24-hour party guy. He reaches out to the humble. He goes to work on Saturday when his boss asks him to come in an extra day. He goes to his boss’ Harry Potter dress-up party. He goes on impromptu plane trips (eventually accosted by FBI and mistaken as a violator of the Homeland Security Act.) Situation jokes like that are sometimes funnier than the one-liners.
No modern day comedy can be without one truly risible and obnoxious scene that should have been left on the cutting room floor (it involves Carrey unable to say “No” to a flirtatious geriatric neighbor), a scene that goes too far. It’s the 21st century comedy rule that comedy can exists unless it gets gross at least one time. Say yuk all you want, I mean, get over it. It never seems like we will ever get a comedy again without at least one awful gross-out. Learn to forgive (forgive bad scenes) and move on.
I would like to report I was laughing out of my seat during a barroom scene where a soused Carl criticizes a dirtbag for undervaluing his gorgeous girlfriend and then refusing to turn down a fight outside that Carl couldn’t possibly win. It’s the holidays, I deserve a big laugh. In-between all the drug abuse movies and racial persecution movies it feels good to walk into a movie like this one. Another upshot: I like comedies about grumpy guys that get their happiness revitalized once again. His doldrums life becomes joyful.
Simple acts of goodness begin to payback Carl ten-fold. That job promotion came way too easy! All those friends are practically bouncing on his lap! Facial mannerisms are liberated, a lá, Carrey gets in touch with the old face contortion-twist Carrey! Back when Carrey used to be fun! No god awful traces of Carrey from “The Number 23” here. Carrey the broad comedy actor is back in full swing.
Yes (no pun intended), I nearly forgot that Carrey did do a comedy a couple of Christmas seasons ago called “Fun With Dick & Jane” but let’s face the fact that it wasn’t all that fun because it lacked humane spirit. “Yes Man” is gimmicky good fun, but if you dislike package-formula comedies than you will probably go all scrooge on this one. But if you’re like me, and you like all those Jim Carrey early funny ones, then you are going to like this one.