Starring Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, and Bradley Cooper
There is a single moment in Yes Man that completely decides its fate. The movie is silly enough before it, silly enough after it, but if you’ve watched the first hour completely unimpressed, you might get up and leave. Then again, if you’ve liked what you’ve seen out of Jim Carrey to that point, it will probably be the first scene you tell your friends about later, having hooked you for good.
Or you could be on the fence, thinking some of this movie is OK, some of it just south of that, and then a sing-along and a brief appearance by the great Luis Guzman will confirm just how hard this movie is trying to be funny.
The problem is trying to be funny doesn’t always work. It doesn’t even usually work. But trying to be funny is kind of Jim Carrey’s calling card. He is at his best when he’s anything but subtle, but he’s also at his worst when the sledgehammer approach falls flat. Interestingly enough, some of the best, shrewdest aspects of Yes Man are the ones that fly under the radar, the jokes that not everyone will get and certainly won’t recognize as jokes.
The film is based on a book by Danny Wallace, an English radio producer who overheard someone on a bus utter “say yes more” and decided that he’d say yes to every opportunity that came along. The movie uses the same premise, although there’s now a series of self-help seminars about Yes that set Jim Carrey on his path to happiness.
In his everyday life, Carl Allen (Carrey) works as a loan officer, one of the ultimate No jobs. He doesn’t get out of his house even three years after his wife left him, and he’s closed off from everything. But then a friend persuades him to attend one of the seminars, drinking the Kool-Aid of Terrence Bundley (Terrence Stamp), and almost as soon as he begins saying yes, good things start happening.
The most noticeable change in Carl’s life is the appearance of Allison (Zooey Deschanel), who is not only not the type of girl Carl would normally date, but he’d never had met her at all if he hadn’t said yes to a string of other odd requests. Their relationship blooms, and there are a few fun gags along the way.
And despite the rather obvious setup, Yes Man could’ve been so much better if it were toned down, if instead of Jim Carrey, we were watching a comedian we didn’t already associate with extreme situations and broad comedy.
There are still funny moments here; I especially liked Rhys Darby (Murray from Flight of the Conchords) as Carl’s extremely odd boss. But just as comedies shouldn’t have to try so hard, audiences shouldn’t have to look so hard to find a reason to recommend it.