‘Yes Man’ (2008)

Let me say up front that I don’t normally like Jim Carrey movies. He’s like a less funny, flatulent version of Buster Keaton . Despite this, I was intrigued enough by the premise of Carrey’s new film ‘Yes Man’ to plunk down $10 and spend an hour and 45 minutes of my life.

Carl Allen (Carrey) is the definition of a drone. His life is a well-worn path consisting of work, the video store, and falling asleep on his couch. His wife left him over a year ago, his job as a junior loan officer is a dead end that only encourages his tendency to say no to life. A chance meeting with Nick (John Michael Higgins), whom we are given little information about and are meant to assume is “an old friend,” and Nick’s raves about how the power of yes changed his life push Carl to attend a motivational seminar by Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp) during which he is singled out.

Bundley pushes Carl into making “a covenant” with himself: say yes to every opportunity that comes along. What follows is a series of experiences some absurd – like the homeless man who ends up stranding Carl with no working cell phone, no cash, and a car with no gas in a park nowhere near Carl’s house – some plausible and rewarding – the aforementioned stranding connects Carl with Allison (Zooey Deschanel) who, in truth, is the film’s moral and spiritual center to the pliable Carl.

Carl’s embrace of Bundley’s theory of life, open yourself to yes, embrace the possibilities, leads implausibly to an encounter with the FBI as Carl’s activities – learning to fly, to speak Korean, spontaneously taking a trip to Lincoln Nebraska with Allison – seem to suggest a pattern of terrorist activities. This implausible encounter is the movie’s linchpin, the one on which its thematic lesson turns, and it’s the most egregious example of the film violating its own internal logic. Yes, people can change but how likely to motivate you out of stupor is an encounter with someone you haven’t seen for a number of years, particularly when that person closes out your meeting by throwing a rock through the front window at your place of employment and running from security?

The premise of ‘Yes Man’ is more than timely in this era of hope and “yes, we can” political change. Unfortunately, a thin script, strange casting (Carrey looks every minute of 46 which makes his romance with the 28 year-old Deschanel a tad bit creepy) and direction (Danny Masterson as one of Carl’s friends goes from over-grown party boy to slime ball in less than 20 minutes of screen time), and what is basically a walk-on by Jim Carrey squander what could have been a great teaching-through-pop-culture moment.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


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