Carrey’s ‘Yes Man’ is a no, man
December 18, 2008
Someone should have butted in with an emphatic “No” before the cameras rolled for Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man,” whose makers said yes to a commonplace screenplay that lacks the wit or heart to lift the movie above its formulaic premise.
The movie’s an amiable trifle, and audiences looking for lighthearted respite from these gloomy times could do worse than say OK to this well-meaning comedy, a fictionalized tale inspired by British author Danny Wallace’s memoir.
Yet director Peyton Reed and the movie’s three screenwriters never give you much reason to cheer Carrey’s Carl Allen, a shut-in who drops his anti-social ways after encountering a self-help guru preaching the power of saying yes to everything.
Instead, the filmmakers sketch in a superficial back story for Carl ” dreary bank-loan job, failed marriage, general ennui ” then rely on Carrey’s rubber-faced expressions and manic energy to carry their tame jokes and sight gags.
The laughs are scattered, and Carl’s exploits often are painfully artificial. While Carrey and a supporting cast led by Zooey Deschanel are thoroughly likable, they all seem like props for a one-note idea.
Carl’s a cliche of a couch potato, a guy expending most of his energy dodging friends, neighbors and co-workers so he can stay home spending another night with a movie indifferently chosen from the DVD rental store.
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After bumping into an old acquaintance (John Michael Higgins), Carl grudgingly follows his advice to attend a seminar whose host (Terence Stamp) insists that the word “yes” is the key to opening endless opportunities.
So Carl tries it, shouldering some annoying burdens that pay off when he gains a new girlfriend, the lovely, flaky free spirit Allison (Deschanel).
After that, Carl obsessively embraces his inner yes man, finding big and little rewards in unexpected places.
“Yes Man” piles on contrivances and coincidences so the story eventually can throw Carl a curve and prevent him from spending the whole movie basking in the wonders that boundless optimism can bring.
The benign, blandly predictable story comes off as a vague retread of earlier high-concept Carrey comedies such as “Liar Liar.”
Carrey is in pure safe mode here, doing nothing to stray from the formula, and consequently, doing nothing all that interesting, either.
Deschanel and Carrey make for indifferent romantic partners. Both are pleasant enough, but no one’s going to look at the two together and think, what a great couple they make.
The movie sets forth a tired but valid message that opening yourself up to chance, risk and commitment can sweeten life’s spoils. But almost any episode of “My Name Is Earl” does the whole karma payback thing far better than this slim comedy.