Jim Carrey’s life and career are in a sort of mid-life crisis. He has avoided doing his usual goofball comedy films and opted for more serious roles. His appearance in Number 23 was a bit of a shock for most of us, but he pulled it off reasonably well. Even his more recent comedies have often been less about one crazy character and more about the story elements. It seems that he has decided it was time to return to the parts that made him a household name with Yes Man. But after watching Yes Man,,I have to wonder if maybe that genre has passed him by. For the first time, you really start to see age catching up on the crazy actor, and while he still has tremendous timing, he doesn’t look altogether quite right when he brings out the twisted faces and expressions anymore. It’s not a dig at Carrey at all. Still, it can’t be very good for a comedy, particularly one with a romantic element to it, when your first reaction is that the lead’s starting to look a little old. It’s not even that he looks bad. He just might need to tone down the goofy and concentrate on being more sincere. When Carrey takes that approach in this film he’s far more believable and, yes, that much more funny.
The story is almost a direct riff from his Liar Liar plot. In this one Carrey plays Carl Allen. Carl is a loan officer at a local bank. He was divorced three years ago, but he still hasn’t gotten over it. He’s become somewhat reclusive and self absorbed. He finds all manner of excuses to avoid doing anything with his friends. Instead he spends each night falling asleep watching rented movies on television. What’s worse is that he doesn’t even know that he’s miserable. One day at lunch a former coworker, Nick (Higgens) approaches him as he’s eating lunch in front of the bank. He tells Carl about how a motivational seminar has changed his life. He invites Carl to come to a workshop, but Carl drops his usual no thanks on him. But later Carl begins to realize how detached he’s become and has a scrooge-like epiphany at just how lonely he is. So, predictably, Carl goes to the seminar. Here motivational Guru Terrance (Stamp) preaches the gospel of Yes. He challenges Carl to merely accept every opportunity that comes his way. He commits him to a covenant to say yes to anything. As soon as Carl leaves the building the expected situations arise, where most sane people would say no. In a series of Yes’s that involve a homeless man, Carl begins to have second thoughts when his affirmative replies appear to put him in a bad situation. That is, until he meets Allison (Deschanel). Suddenly his new life appears to bring him a bounty of experiences and pleasures. As you might expect, it’s all leading to some rather uncomfortable consequences. But, as all “feel good” films must, Carrey eventually learns to live his new life in moderation and lives happily ever after.
If you’re looking for some reasonably logical plot, you’ve obviously never seen many of Carrey’s films. It’s never about the story or even the often heavy handed morality lessons. These things are merely a playground, providing the toys and structures on which Carrey shows us how he plays. There are too many goofball moments, and the sad thing is, they’re really not necessary. This film had the potential of being one of those charming little romantic comedies that most people can fall for. Carrey often displays pretty good chemistry with the much younger Zooey Deschanel. They are almost certainly at their best when Carrey’s not trying so hard. There’s also a pretty solid collection of supporting characters who also work better when Carrey allows himself to be more subdued. Terrance Stamp puts his authoritive voice and stature to perfectly cast use as the motivational guru. He’s as intimidating now as he was when he was kicking Superman’s behind back in the early 80’s. Rhys Darby is at first quite funny as Carl’s nerdy Harry Potter fan boss, Norman. The joke is overused and wears thin after a time. Deschanel has a certain quirky charm that makes her an attractive, if unlikely romantic interest. I can’t say as much for her character’s rock band. For me, the film dies during her musical performances. It’s just another example of too over the top, as is a Homeland Security bit that just never really fits except as a plot device or “big reveal”. Some of the film is actually pretty funny. I’m willing to overlook the plot holes and obvious contrivance of the whole situation. Carrey’s going to be fine. His age doesn’t have to hurt him at all, if he can learn to adapt and leave the facial contortions and break dancing in the past.
Yes Man is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I found the film to be overly bright. Colors are bright to the point of being cartoonish. It only serves to give the film an uncomfortable unrealistic feel. There’s also a considerable amount of compression artifact on this one. That means pretty weak black levels. This just doesn’t seem to measure up to modern standards.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track delivers better than the image. Of course, it’s a dialog driven comedy, so that isn’t all that hard to accomplish. Everything is clear, and the mix is relatively tame. You won’t get much more than a stereo presentation, really.
Downtime On The Set Of Yes Man: This under 4 minutes feature is really almost like a gag reel. Carrey begins by informing us about just how boring filmmaking can be.
Jim Carrey – Extreme Yes Man: There’s the typical love fest going on, but the best part of this 12 minute feature is a look at some of the stunts Carrey did for the movie. The bungee jump was really him.
Munchausen’s By Proxy: There are two sections that include a mockumentary and some music videos from Allison’s band.
Gag Reel: A little more than 5 minutes of goofing around and goofing up.
I guess, for many of Carrey’s huge fans, this film is going to be a return to his roots. I know that nostalgia makes us look fondly on such things, but Carrey will have to evolve as a comedian and an actor to regain even a small bit of the success he had at one time. He’s still a talented guy, but can he learn to use those talents in new and improved ways? “Yes”.