Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Yes Man

Does anyone but Jim Carrey find Jim Carrey life-affirming? He first captured the public imagination playing over-the-top comic creations, but since Liar Liar, he's repeatedly returned to more mundane characters forced by some outrageous development to confront big, unacknowledged truths that have gotten in the way of their personal development, invariably with a fair amount of physical humiliation along the way. A twist on the approach paid off remarkably well with Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but better-living-through-pratfalls films like Bruce Almighty never lose the scent of phoniness. They seem completely sincere when they're getting Carrey into one comedy-inducing scrape after another, but as thin as a "Hang In There!" poster when making him a better man. Carrey can turn in strong performances, but sincerity and humility just look like more poses pulled from his bag of funny faces.

In Yes Man, a film loosely taken from the non-fiction book by Scottish humorist and media personality Danny Wallace, Carrey plays a glum bank employee who, following a nasty divorce, has withdrawn from his friends. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance leads Carrey to attend a seminar run by charismatic guru Terence Stamp, who demands his followers stop saying "no" and start saying "yes" to everything asked of them. And on that high concept hangs the film.

Director Peyton Reed keeps the movie handsome, but there's little of the style he brought to the overlooked Down With Love or even the dire-but-distinctive The Break-Up. Once Carrey makes the "yes" commitment, the film turns into a gag machine as he improves his life by opening up to Korean lessons, time spent with his friends, random acts of kindness, and oral sex with a toothless octogenarian. It's all professionally done and never more than mildly amusing. There's a strained attempt at a sweet romance with go-to quirk-provider Zooey Deschanel, and some nice moments courtesy of Rhys Darby, playing a variation on his hapless Flight Of The Conchords character. But Yes Man hardly gives them any room to breathe between rounds of mugging and product placement. The film contains so many plugs for Warner Bros. movies like the Harry Potter series and 300 that it could almost double as an infomercial. Maybe it should have been, since it makes a far more convincing pitch for those disparate fantasies than its own thin notion about the power of positive speaking.