Warner Bros. // 2008 // 104 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // April 7th, 2009
One word can change everything.
Loosely based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Danny Wallace, Yes Man is a typical silly, high concept Jim Carrey movie, except this one makes you think -- allegedly.
Carl Allen (Jim Carrey, The Majestic) is a No Man. That is, he likes saying no to things such as phone calls, invitations to drink, and loan applications (he works as a loan officer at a small bank). Not surprisingly, this negative attitude leads to a life of solitude devoid of joy. However, while on a lunch break, he runs into Nick (John Michael Higgins, Arrested Development), an old acquaintance who has become a Yes Man; that is, Nick says yes to everything, no matter how outlandish. Apparently, this positive attitude leads to adventure and personal fulfillment. After Nick drags Carl to a seminar on saying yes, Carl decides to give it a try himself. This leads to a renewed outlook on life, which includes guitar lessons, bungee jumping, and maybe even a romance with the fetching Allison (Zooey Deschanel, Elf).
You might be thinking Yes Man seems like a retread of Carrey's 1997 comedy Liar Liar. If so, you would be mostly correct. In Liar Liar, Carrey couldn't lie; here, he can't say no. In both films this handicap is portrayed as both hilarious and life affirming. However, Yes Man doesn't fall back on quite as many physical gags as Liar Liar -- for which I am thankful -- but does squander the resulting goodwill with countless product placements. All in all, it's probably a wash.
Like the higher-end Carrey comedies, or perhaps most all comedies with budgets north of $50 million, Yes Man is composed of moderately amusing, episodic scenes that seem focus-grouped and safe. (The sole exception is a scene featuring an old lady and oral sex that seems to belong in a Farrelly Brothers movie from ten years ago.) This is hardly the worst thing to say about a comedy, but a film where guys party all night fueled by Red Bull -- the kind of thing I did in middle school with Jolt Cola -- can't help but seem a little tame. As such, the movie is lucky to have a strong supporting cast to balance out the weaker gags, such as the odd appearance of government agents in the third act.
While Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby brings some levity as Carry's needy boss, the most valuable supporting player is Deschanel. She brings energy and credibility to the movie, provided not only by being talented and cool, but by also being almost two decades younger than Carrey, who is beginning to get a little old to play the nondescript sad-sack character. Though Deschanel's Allison, is a little too Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ish for my comfort -- her early-morning jogging/photography group was far out there -- Deschanel herself is still a huge asset. One of the best scenes, and one of the prime examples of how this film manages to be endearing, involves her singing with Munchausen by Proxy, an avant-garde indie band -- while also foreshadows her impending real-life success as a singer in the two-person group She & Him.
Another asset is the surprising introspection that Yes Man provokes. Certainly, this is not a profound movie, but it will probably influence your life in a way no other Jim Carrey comedy has, which is to say, at all. Though the film's conceit that every time you say "yes" there is an immediate and direct positive impact is ridiculous, while watching I did find myself pondering all my recent no's, wondering whether I might not have been better off being more positive. In that spirit, though I'm on the fence about the film, I'm still going to recommend you say "yes" to Yes Man.
One aspect of the Blu-ray I am not on the fence about is the sharp transfer of the film. Though comedies are rarely considered showcase pieces, the picture quality of Yes Man is clear and bright; this 1080p quality makes the bland interiors pop and the surprisingly scenic Los Angeles (where I live) appear like I've never seen it before -- and much better than it has any right to look. The sound also provides little to showcase, but it is put to occasional good use, particularly with Daschanel's music at Spaceland (a local music club), which is a great venue for the music of Munchausen by Proxy.
The Blu-ray has collected loads of extras, but only a few are substantive. The first is the digital copy of the film, which is a handy feature that is a cool new trend in Blu-ray. The second is a collection of five music videos by Munchausen by Proxy, which could easily be dismissed as a gimmick, but these are really good tunes. After these extras, the rest all seems like filler: there are loads of short featurettes, many of which just seem like an excuse to let Carrey mug away, including one which is pretty much a two-minute commercial for Red Bull. There are also 8 minutes of additional scenes and a five-minute gag reel.
Although part of the critic's job is to deconstruct movies, it often seems especially tedious for comedies, especially silly, high-concept ones like Yes Man. Perhaps the best way to evaluate these movies is to count how many times you laughed. In this case, I think I had about seven or eight good laughs. That's not great, but there are plenty of "comedies" that don't get a peep out of me.
I'm not sure how high expectations one should have for a comedy about a man who can't say no. If you're just looking for a few laughs, a semi-awkward love story, and a superficial life-affirming message, you can stop looking right now.
Review content copyright © 2009 Brendan Babish; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Gag Reel
* Music Videos
* Official Site