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Overall Rating
2.48

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 15.15%
Average: 24.24%
Pretty Bad54.55%
Total Crap: 6.06%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings


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Yes Man
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by Peter Sobczynski

"I Guess This Explains "The Number 23"
2 stars

Ever since making his highly acclaimed dramatic breakthrough a decade ago in “The Truman Show,” Jim Carrey has largely dedicated his career to avoiding the simplistic one-joke comedies that initially launched him into superstardom (such as “Ace Ventura” and “Dumb and Dumber”) in order to concentrate on projects that have allowed him to stretch his dramatic muscles instead of his facial ones. Many of these films have demonstrated his considerable gifts as an actor (his turns in 1999’s “Man on the Moon” and 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” were among the very best of their respective years) but alas, none of them have come close to achieving the same financial returns as the goofball comedies and as a result, Carrey has found it necessary to return to the world of high-concept silliness in order to reaffirm his box-office standing to allow him the freedom to do the quirkier things that he is clearly more interested in. The only problem is that when he has gone back and done these silly comedies, such as “Bruce Almighty” and “Fun With Dick and Jane,” he has seemed appalled and uneasy at the prospect of returning to the genre that made him a star in the first place to rehash the same old shtick that he presumably thought that he had outgrown years earlier. This is definitely the case with his latest effort, “Yes Man,” an especially lame comedy with a premise so threadbare that it might have been deemed unsuitable for a Rob Schneider direct-to-video vehicle and an execution so tired and listless that it almost makes you yearn for the likes of “Ace Ventura II,” a film that was as god-awful as anything ever placed before a camera but which at least contained a certain manic energy that is completely absent here.

Carrey plays Carl Allen, an average schnook whose divorce three years earlier caused him such emotional devastation that he now avoids getting involved with any sort of commitment by saying “no” to virtually every request that comes his way, even going so far to skip out on his best friend’s engagement party to sit at home on the couch and mope while watching a fine movie from the archives of Warner Brothers, the studio that just happens to have produced this film. One day, he runs into an old acquaintance (John Michael Higgins) from the bank where he still works as a loan officer and discovers that the guy is now an exuberant free spirit who credits his change in attitude to a form of self-help therapy that has him automatically answer “Yes” to any opportunity that comes his way. After being chastised by his pals (Bradley Cooper and Danny Masterson) for his increasingly mopey ways, Carl goes to a seminar run by the creator of the “Yes” program, Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp), and is browbeaten into making a covenant in which he will say yes to everything with the caveat that bad things will happen if he turns anything down. At first, Carl thinks that he has been taken for a ride when he finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere after giving a bum a ride in a journey that depletes him of his money, phone minutes and gas, but things soon pick up when he is rescued by Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a wacky free spirit who gives him a ride and a big old smooch for good measure.

With that kind of inspiration, Carl decides to continue with the program and while there are a few hiccups along the way--at various times, he finds himself obliged to submit to the sexual whims of his elderly-but-randy next-door neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan) and to attend theme parties thrown by his geeky boss (Rhys Darby) that are all inspired by properties produced by Warner Brothers, the studio that just happens to have produced this film.--but for the most part, acquiescing to everything seems to be improving his life in unexpected ways. Although you might think that being forced to say “yes” to everything might be disastrous to the career of someone in charge of approving bank loans, he winds up getting a promotion due to circumstances that clearly prove that this movie was written and shot before the recent cratering of the national economy. Later on, while helping to plan a bridal shower for his friend’s fiancée (don’t ask), he gets to both cheer up a depressed Korean wedding planner (you see, he saw a sign asking if he wanted to learn to speak Korean) and talk down a potential suicide from jumping off the ledge of his apartment. His social life improves considerably as well--not only does another chance encounter with Allison lead to a romance but his ex-wife (Molly Sims) begins to pursue him again as well--but inevitably, just when things seem to be perfect for Carl, his life begins to fall apart again. Don’t despair, however, this is merely the requisite third-act crisis that needs to arise so that the film can embark on its standard-issue conclusion filled with the kind of cynically conceived moral lessons about living life to the fullest while being true to yourself and wacky romantic gestures that we have seen in countless other comedies, though rarely to as little effect as they are used here.

The problem with “Yes Man” is simple enough--it just isn’t very funny. Even if you are able to ignore the fact that it is essentially about a guy who joins a cult and finds his life turning out for the better as a result (I may be taking this aspect a bit too seriously, I suppose, but if I were to ever choose to see this film, I would want to watch it on a double-bill with “Ticket to Heaven”), it is far more difficult to overlook the fact that screenwriters Nicholas Stoller and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel have pretty much failed to do anything memorable with a premise that sounds on the surface like an absolute slam-dunk. The notion of a guy who has convinced himself that he has to agree to anything that someone says seems like it could be the starting-off point for any number of suitably outrageous comedic conceits--maybe he could find himself helplessly agreeing to do something completely unsavory and then struggling to find a way out of it while still appearing to agree to uphold his end of the bargain. However, with the exception of the sequence involving the horny old neighbor (which seems to have been inserted only to remind us that sexually active old people are disgusting and to ensure that this otherwise mild film earned its all-important PG-13 rating), most of what transpires is too innocuous to be funny. (To be fair, the film does try to end things with an outrageous sight gag and while it is a nice effort, it doesn’t quite work because it is neither as outrageous nor as funny as the filmmakers seem to think that it is.)This is a guy who has to say yes to everything and what does he wind up doing as a result? He goes to a Harry Potter-themed party, drinks a lot of Red Bull and travels to Lincoln, Nebraska. My guess is that you and I could get together at lunch and brainstorm any number of ideas involving this premise that could have taken better advantage of this premise. Instead of pushing the idea into some kind of weirdo inspiration, “Yes Man” is content to dole out the dumb sight gags and jokes that we have seen in any number of other movies. The worst part, however, comes during the point when Allison finally learns about the Yes philosophy that Carl has been following and dumps him on the assumption that he has only been with her because he had to and not because she looks like Zooey Deschanel. For one thing, this change of heart on her part doesn’t make any sense because she comes across as the kind of free-spirited arch-kook who would whole-heartedly embrace such a philosophy. For another, the relationship between the two of them is so sketchily developed that it doesn’t really make a difference to anything if they remain together or not. Face it, if you have to drag in Homeland Security in order to split apart your central romantic couple, there is a distinct possibility that your screenplay needs a little work.

If it is any consolation, though, it is apparent right from the start that Jim Carrey is as bored with delivering this material as we in the audience are in receiving it. Although I can’t say that I was a fan of the obnoxious comedies that made him a megastar in the first place, I will concede that he threw himself into those projects with an astonishing degree of energy and zeal in order to breathe life into the material. Now that he has outgrown this kind of one-note comedic filmmaking, he no longer seems willing to commit to the zaniness in the way that he once did so effortlessly. Oh sure, he mugs and goofs off from start to finish but this time around, there is a tired and hangdog quality to it--instead of laughing at his antics, all you can do is feel the sheer effort that he is expending in an attempt to play the kind of rubber-faced knucklehead that he, if not the public, has long since outgrown. Zooey Deschanel comes off a little better--her appealingly oddball persona has never been more welcome here--but not even her considerable charm and personality is able to distract us from the fact that she is stuck in the utterly inconsequential Girlfriend role. As for the others, since they haven’t really been given anything funny or meaningful to perform, all they can do is simply stand around while Carrey goes off on his allegedly comedic riffs and wait patiently to deliver their lines. The only one of the bunch who actually manages to generate any real laughs is Terrence Stamp as the cult leader--even though it is pretty much the same role he had in “Bowfinger,” he manages to milk some real humor with nothing more than the sight of his piercing eyes and the scowl on his face. Sadly, having introduced him, the film then disposes of him entirely until the end and at that point, it is too late for even him to do anything to save things.

Because it is one of the few comedies out right now, my guess is that “Yes Man” will do well with audiences starved for anything that even hints at being humorous but I am here to tell you that I found more genuinely funny moments in the likes of “Revolutionary Road” and “Gran Torino” (some intentional, some not) than I did here. To be fair, there are a couple of scattered laughs here and there--the scene with the suicidal guy on the ledge (whose identity will not be spoiled by me) is pretty amusing and I liked how the band that Zooey Deschanel’s character belongs to is called Munchausen By Proxy. Interestingly, those jokes really have nothing to do with the film’s main premise and seem to have been inserted only because they made the writers laugh. Kind of sad when a film that is supposed to be a comedy has to insert scenes of comedy relief, isn’t it?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17092&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/19/08 16:00:00
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User Comments

1/31/13 Charles Tatum Deschanel is good, Carrey phones it in. 3 stars
6/19/11 Jennifer B. pretty funny 4 stars
5/24/09 mr.mike Jim does what he can , making for an OK rental. 3 stars
4/08/09 Dan Dull and pointless. Not funny, not romantic, not memorable. Why was this movie made? 1 stars
2/27/09 Luisa Funny, romantic movie 4 stars
2/15/09 Anthony Feor Jim Carrey does what he has done in every other film in Yes Man and it's still funny. 4 stars
1/04/09 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny for what it was! Rhys Darby was hilarious! 4 stars
12/22/08 PAUL SHORTT REMAINS FIRMLY IN THE DOLDRUMS, TAKING ITS AUDIENCE ALONG WITH IT 1 stars
12/20/08 Shawna It wasn't hilarious but it was freakin adorable. A GREAT romantic comedy. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Dec-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  19-Dec-2008
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009




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