Yes Man certainly marks a return to comedy form for Jim Carrey. It’s essentially a carbon copy of Liar Liar (replace those lies with the word “yes”), but it’s refreshing to see him back in something funny and harmless after clunkers like Fun with Dick and Jane and The Number 23. Yes Man is consistently funny, particularly if you’re still gullible to Carrey’s rubber face and endless energy (I’m 27 and still am). It’s a formula picture all the way, but Carrey and the supporting cast sure make it seem better than that.
Carrey plays Carl Allen, a loan officer at the local bank who takes pride in his ability to say “no” to everyone and everything. He spends most of his time cooped up in his apartment watching movies while his best friend, Peter (Cooper), tries to liven up his social life. When one of Carl’s crazy friends, Nick (Michael Higgins), runs into him outside the bank and tells him how saying “yes” has changed his whole life, Carl becomes intrigued. It turns out that Nick is a product of motivational speaker Terrence Bundley’s (Terrence Stamp) seminar about how saying “yes” to everything is the key to living a full life. Bundley and Carl reach a covenant (mostly by audience pressure) and Carl must say yes to everything for a year.
Essentially a series of sitcom bits, Yes Man coasts almost exclusively on the charisma of Carrey. The trio of screenwriters (working from the book by Danny Wallace) knows what works for him and his fan base, and they cater to it with just enough vulgarity and a warm enough heart to get the job done. Director Peyton Reed (who has previously been tied to pure mediocrity) keeps things moving and somehow ups the charm level with the worst green screen car accident caught on film in years. He’s smart enough to let Carrey do the heavy lifting.
After a diverse past decade, there is some nostalgia in seeing Carrey back in a role like this. He remains a fearless comedian and I think his broad audience will still find him enjoyable. Few people out there can get laughs just by rapping Scotch tape around their head, but Carrey can still do it. As the love interest, Zooey Deschanel excels. She’s a peculiar match for someone like Carl, but she also brings out his adventurous side. She nearly steals the movie with a musical number early in the film. Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, and Terence Stamp all get generous laughs.
Yes Man is a safe and sound comedy, and this is the perfect time of year to release it. As a mindless Christmas break diversion, one really couldn’t ask for much more. Carrey enthusiasts should keep their expectations in check, as this one doesn’t compete with the likes of Dumb and Dumber or Ace Ventura in terms of non-stop laughter. It is, however, a good outing for the family in these times of heavyweight dramas and Oscar contenders.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 104 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity.
Theatrical Release: December 19, 2008
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Nicholas Stoller & Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel. Based upon the book by Danny Wallace.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson