Warner Bros. // 2008 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // April 7th, 2009
One word changes everything.
Jim Carrey stars in a comedy about a dishonest guy compelled to say things he doesn't want to say. No, it isn't Liar, Liar.
Carl Allen (Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon) is a man who says "no" to everything: his friends, people on the street, incoming calls on his phone. He even says no for a living, working 9 to 5 behind a desk at a bank denying loans. But when an old friend (John Michael Higgins, The Break-Up) convinces Carl to attend a "Yes Man" seminar, Carl's life is turned around. He makes the decision to say yes to any opportunity that comes his way, leading to some startling changes -- not the least of which is a budding romance with a musician/photographer/aerobics instructor (played by the lovely Zooey Deschanel, Eulogy).
Yes Man plays like an explosion at the screenplay factory, taking a fairly simple high-concept idea and running it in way too many directions. By its very nature, the movie is going to be episodic, as we get to see all the different situations that Carrey winds up in as a result of his new "just say yes" philosophy. But none of those episodes build on one another or add up to anything; the movie just zigs around from one mini-set piece to another, coasting on a reputation for manic humor that Carrey built over a decade ago. Movies like Yes Man makes you realize just how inspired a movie like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective really is. Take that for what it's worth.
There are high concept movies like this that work. The best example would be the great Groundhog Day, a movie with a premise that has no business working but overcomes it to become one of the best movies ever made. Even Liar Liar delivered on its simple terms and, in its own way, works. But Yes Man is founded on an idea that it doesn't know what to do with. Here you have one of the most gifted comic actors of the last 20 years (depending on who you're talking to) and a premise that can have him do literally anything because the screenplay requires it of him. What does Yes Man come up with? Carrey learns Korean. He gives a homeless guy a ride. He has sex with an old lady. He drinks Red Bull. I'll understand if you're not falling out of your chair.
Despite Carrey (who is becoming more dependent on high-concept comedies than Ben Stiller) and behind-the-scenes work by director Peyton Reed (who made the underrated Down with Love) and co-writer Nicholas Stoller (who directed last year's excellent Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Yes Man just doesn't work. By the time Carrey and girlfriend Deschanel (playing what Nathan Rabin calls the "manic pixie dream girl") take to flying around the country, only to be detained at an airport and held on suspicions of terrorism, it becomes very apparent that the movie is spinning its wheels. The fact that even this roadblock doesn't last for longer than a single self-contained scene should give you an indication of the movie's schizophrenia. It can't settle on any idea for longer than a scene at a time.
I feel bad about saying this, but Jim Carry seems a little old for this kind of comedy. Maybe it's because at nearly 50, his face just seems more weathered; maybe it's because he's cast opposite a girl 20 years his junior, or maybe it's because we've been watching him do this same shtick for over 15 years. When he and Zooey Deschanel confess their love for one another, I found myself cringing -- though that probably had less to do with the age difference than it did with the fact that the film absolutely had not earned that moment.
And, yet, there's very little in Yes Man that requires Carrey's services. There are attempts to shoehorn in the kind of manic face-pulling and physical comedy that Carrey brings to the table, but they're few and far between. Worse, they're irrelevant. Carrey's actually wrong for the part; try as he might to inhabit a naysaying grouch, he carries too much baggage as a likable goof. This is the kind of role that requires someone like Bill Murray, who we can really buy as a guy checked out of life and, thus, believe his carpe diem transformation. You know, like in Groundhog Day. See what I mean about how awesome that movie is?
From a technical standpoint, there's not much to complain about with the Yes Man two-disc special edition DVD (although the "Two-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy" title is misleading, as the digital copy is the second disc). The film gets a bright, clean anamorphic widescreen presentation in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 5.1 audio track does a fine job with what the film demands of it, offering clear dialogue and snappy music cues.
Only a handful of extras are included on this "special edition." There are a pair of featurettes designed to showcase what a funny guy Carrey is as he goofs off in between takes and talks about all the wacky things he has to do in the movie (bungee jumping, getting face to face with an angry dog). There's a short gag reel that isn't very funny. Most of the bonus features are devoted to the Zooey Deschanel's fictional band in the movie, Munchausen by Proxy: there are five videos (really just live performance footage either cut down in the movie or eliminated entirely) and a fake documentary about the band. It's a lot of time and energy devoted to something that barely registers in the big picture of Yes Man, though that Zooey Deschanel sure has a nice singing voice.
The second disc, as previously mentioned, is a digital copy of the movie so you can take Yes Man wherever you go.
I have a fondness for Jim Carrey -- even in some of his lesser work -- probably because few comic actors work quite so hard to earn laughs. He used to have a kind of edge to him; even when the movie sucked, you genuinely didn't know what he was going to do next. That Carrey has been totally erased in Yes Man, replaced by a guy who would rather be pleasant and well liked and teach us all a little lesson. It's the kind of comedy that should have been saved for Robin Williams.
Just say no.
Review content copyright © 2009 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Gag Reel
* Music Videos