Say Yes to the philosophy of "Yes Man" – to welcomingly embrace new opportunities - but No to its contrived film execution.
Based in concept on the spirited autobiography by Danny Wallace, the film recounts a guy's decision to get off the coach, stop ignoring his friends and live a more open life by saying "yes" to everything. However the film changes most of Danny's anecdotes in favor of ridiculous scenarios and over-the-top characters.
Jim Carrey stars as bored, uninvolved financial loan officer Carl, who says "no" to people at work and to friends in his personal life. Carrey brings his trademark physical humor, sarcasm and facial wizardry to Carl and gets a few good laughs and a decent amount of giggles from his comic energy. Carl feels and looks like Ace Ventura at 40. The whole production depends on his winning personality, and he elevates a weak script filled with dull gags and thinly-drawn characters.
A chance encounter with an old friend introduces Carl to the "yes movement," a cult enterprise headed by a commanding Terence Stamp. Carl makes a covenant that he must say yes to everything or else bad luck will haunt him. This supernatural element is overplayed, such as when an old neighbor, played by Molly Sims, desires to sexually reward Carl for installing her shelves, he declines the offer and the ridiculousness begins. His shirt gets caught in the doorway, he falls down stairs and a vicious dog almost mauls him. He reconsiders and gives in to his neighbor, much to his surprise enjoyment, but at the expense of making the film's message less appealing.
The other activities Carl agrees to serve are obvious additions to his skillset that will aid him in future tricky situation. He learns Korean, plays guitar, and even throws a bridal shower, all conveniently helping him in select right moment where Carl emerges as a hero.
Most dull is Carl's love story with Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel who was charming opposite Will Farell in "Elf." But here she's a freewheeling hipster who plays in a bad rock band and teaches a class on photographing while jogging. Could it get any zanier? How about impromptu trips to Lincoln, Nebraska. When Allison discovers that Carl says "yes" to everything she questions his interest in her, but romantic-comedy formula requires her to have a grand moment right near the end where he convinces her that he genuinely likes her. Another awkward element is watching Deschanel (28) make out with the significantly older Carrey (46).
The one bearable supporting performance is from Australian comic Rhys Darby as Carl's dorky boss, who gets a few laughs because he plays well off of Carrey.
Written by three screenwriters, a bad sign the original screenplay was problematic, "Yes Man" sours a wonderful message that if people step out of their routine existence and open themselves to random opportunities, they can better their life. Carrey can't save a film that jumps too far into fantasy when a more grounded, relatable story could have been more profound.
1.5 out of 4 stars
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