Age catches up to everyone, and we must
seize each moment while we can. In order to live up to our
potential, we have to say yes. Nothing wrong with these
themes, and nothing wrong with holiday movies underscoring
But somehow Yes Man counters them
by being at best a mediocre Jim Carrey comedy - which most
of them are - and reminding us that Carrey stubbornly refuses
to actually live up to his potential as an actor by consistently
choosing just this kind of vehicle to worm his way into
Carrey stars as Carl Allen, a loan officer
closed off to life - okay, maybe the timing of this occupation
isn't the greatest either. After his divorce from Molly
Sims sometime earlier, Carl just shut down, saying no to
everything and everyone, spending his evenings watching
movies, not quite aware enough to even be wallowing in self-pity.
In theory, learning to say yes should turn
Carl's life around. At least, that's what his random friend
Nick (John Michael Higgins) thinks, and so he drags Carl
to a seminar on the power of yes. There Carl makes a covenant
to try being positive and open to the universe, which transforms
him into wacky Jim Carrey. That's some magic crowbar.
Carrey and Director Peyton Reed use the
screenplay as an excuse to let Carrey riff on scenarios.
Occasionally, it's really clever, such as having Carl being
torn between the new love of his life and a security guard
each barking different orders at him. The rubbery comedian
still has a fairly impressive command of his powers.
But those powers just don't seem to belong
here; at least they don't quite follow that Carl would act
like Carrey does. He's not just saying yes; he's being ridiculous.
It does capture the attention of free spirit
Allison (Zooey Deschanel), close to being what the guys
over at The A.V. Club call a manic pixie dream girl. Oh,
she's got the crazy, or at least the idiosyncratic aimlessness
that guys in movies always find irresistible, but because
the story really needs some kind of conflict, she decides
he's a freak and a liar because he hadn't mentioned that
years earlier, he was married.
That twist feels as forced as the set-up,
and therein lies the biggest problem. Only Carrey gets any
development, and because he's doing schtick, he's not very
believable (though admittedly funny at times). With everyone
else around him cardboard cut-outs required to drive the
plot along - his best friends Bradley Cooper and Danny Masterson
only show up for exposition -- Yes Man feels as empty
as Carl's life at the beginning.
Thus a movie about embracing life proves
itself to be as cynical and empty as Terence Stamp's "Yes"
Guru. Everybody seems charming and well-meaning. Right now
few actresses can project wounded innocence like Deschanel,
and Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby generates
a little loopiness as Carrey's boss. Unlike Carrey, however,
their laughs come within the limits of believability, while
he's off doing inhuman pratfalls and faces.
Say yes to this, Jim Carrey - go ahead
and be a serious actor when you want to be. Maybe now and
then Carrey could return to comedy, and just let something
be funny for its own sake instead of trying to give us a
moral message. A couple more like this and he's like Eddie
Murphy, although really, before he gets too old, some director
should cast him in a multiple role. He's the only actor
alive who could pull it off on film without make-up and
In the meantime, we're going to just have
to say no.