Yes Man finds Jim Carrey returning to his safe zone. Having experimented with dramas (The Majestic), thrillers (The Number 23), and romances (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) to varying degrees of success, Carrey has now found a project that plays to all his strengths. There is nothing new or ambitious about Yes Man. It is intended to be a textbook Jim Carrey silly comedy, and honestly, that's just fine by me. I've admired the star's attempts to broaden his range, yet I'm also glad he's not abandoning the kind of lightweight-but-fun types of movies he became famous for. Sometimes you don't need substance; sometimes you just want to sit and laugh. Carrey does this kind of thing better than almost anyone.
In this new film, he plays Carl Allen, a bank loan officer still reeling from his divorce and a failure to get promoted. Carl has become so negative and surly that he's even started shamefully neglecting his best friends, Peter and Rooney (Bradley Cooper and Danny Masterson). Life throws Carl a curveball when he runs into an old acquaintance named Nick (John Michael Higgins). Nick recognizes Carl's malaise and drags him to a self-help seminar. The guru (played with inspirational menace by Terence Stamp) preaches a very simple gospel: stop saying no to life and start saying yes to any opportunity it presents you.
Carl gives it a go, saying yes to any proposition, whether he wants to or not. To his amazement, things start working out pretty well. He begins failing upward at work. He gets out of the house and begins socializing. He learns Korean, bungee jumps, and even accepts an invitation to a Harry Potter-themed party thrown by his goofy boss (Rhys Darby from HBO's "Flight of the Concords" in a scene-stealing performance). Best of all, Carl's "yes" attitude causes him to connect with Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a free-spirited young woman who is attracted to his anything-goes manner. Of course, complications have to ensue, and Carl eventually discovers that saying yes to everything isn't always a good idea, especially when it puts a newfound romance in jeopardy.
I think the comic possibilities here are obvious: Jim Carrey has to say yes to everything, no matter how absurd. And believe me, the film comes up with some pretty absurd things for him to subject himself too, the wackiest of which involves the little old lady next door (Fionnula Flanagan) who has amorous feelings toward him. Carrey has a ball with the concept, greeting some scenarios with enthusiasm, others with embarrassment, and still others with I would get out of this if I could resignation. He gets to play a lot of different reactions and manages to find humor in all of them.
The romance between Carl and Allison is interesting, most notably because Jim Carrey is 46 and Zooey Deschanel is 28 but looks a little younger. At times, that age gap is a bit distracting, but for the most part the coupling works because Deschanel always plays left-of-center characters and does it quite well. I wouldn't necessarily say that she and Carrey have chemistry, although they do seem to be on the same wavelength. The film benefits from her casting. We actually don't think Allison is crazy for wanting to be with Carl.
There is no substance to Yes Man and no greater meeting - although the story does have a pretty obvious moral about picking and choosing what's important to you in life. The purpose of the movie is to be funny. On that count, it succeeded for me. Jim Carrey is put into a series of bizarre situations and allowed to run amok. He chugs Red Bull, passes out in a slaughterhouse, gets into a bar fight with a much larger dude, et cetera, et cetera. I'm not even going to try to give Yes Man any kind of intellectual defense. I laughed.
( out of four)
Yes Man is available on DVD from Warner Home Video starting April 7 in either a one-disc movie-only version, or a two-disc Special Edition. The film is additionally available on Blu-Ray.
The two-disc edition does not feature the usual assortment of bonus features (commentary, deleted scenes, etc.), but what's here is still pretty good.
The fun begins with "Downtime on the Set," which features footage of star Jim Carrey engaging in some of his trademark on-set antics. You can watch as he ad-libs, tries to crack up his co-stars, and trades barbs with director Payton Reed. I'm of the school that thinks watching Jim Carrey eat cereal for breakfast would be inherently entertaining, so I found this segment quite amusing. It's often been said that all one has to do is wind Carrey up and let him go, which is what happens on the set.
"Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man" looks at the things the actor had to say "yes" to in order to make the movie. We see Carrey riding a specially-mounted motorcycle that allowed close-ups of him to be inserted into stunt sequences. More significantly, we see him preparing - and doing - a bungee jumping scene that comes toward the end of the film. Beforehand, Carrey appears nervous but excited, and it's very entertaining to watch how the crew prepared (mentally and physically) for the scene. Naturally, the filmmakers were forced to schedule this shot for the last day of filming, lest anything unfortunate happen to the star. Thankfully, it went off without a hitch.
"Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy" is a faux "rockumentary" of the band Zooey Deschanel's character plays in. The actors are all interviewed in character, as though they are a real rock group. Following this 10-minute feature are five music videos from the band. Essentially, these are full takes of the musical performances seen briefly in the film itself.
A short gag reel rounds out the set, providing more laughs as Carrey screws up lines and cracks up his fellow actors. Because the star improvises so brilliantly, this gag reel is a cut above the rest.
The two-disc set of Yes Man also comes with a digital copy of the film. Sound and picture quality on the DVD are excellent.
Yes Man is rated PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 44 minutes.
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