Once considered the funniest man in Hollywood, rubber-faced Jim Carrey always used to rely on his exuberance to deliver a combination of comic lines, faces and general outlandish behaviour. While his more dramatic roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon saw a serious side to his acting abilities, he has always had the biggest successes of his career in high concept offerings which are essentially one joke stretched out over an entire movie with varying results. Yes Man continues this trend based on Danny Wallace’s book of the same name which essentially provides a basis for a generic romantic comedy.
Carrey plays Carl Allen, a beleagured divorced banker who avoids his friends and pours misery on others by refusing any loans presented to him at work. One day, he meets an old aquaintance who tells him he should stop saying “no” to people when they invite him out or offer him new opportunties and become the same kind of “yes man” he did after attending a seminar by self-help guru Terrence Bundley (Terrence Stamp) who taught him to say “yes” to everything — whatever the offer. Doubtful at first, Carl is taken to a nearby seminar and binds himself to a covenant to follow the “yes” philosophy to try and haul himself out of a miserable life. Based on a book in which Danny Wallace did exactly that, the fiction of Yes Man sees it fall into the trap of being overly contrived.
The inevitability of Yes Man is made watchable by Carrey’s antics.
Romantic comedies thrive on chaps in need of saving like Carl. Stuck in a depressing situation where his favourite pastime is renting movies and ignoring phone calls from his friends, Carl is depressed further by his ex-wife Stephanie (Molly Sims) getting on with her life. Of course, all Carl’s problems stem from him shying away from new experiences or any kind of invitation making him a classic “no man”, so when he agrees to become a “yes man” things start turning around pretty quickly. True to the genre, on his first night of saying “yes” he winds up meeting a beautiful and fun young lady: in this case Allison (Zooey Deschanel), the lead singer in a band who enjoys the spontaneous side of life. She is well matched to Carl’s new-found “yes” philosophy, and it’s only a matter of time before love is in the air. Not only that, but Carl also finds success at work as he approves hundreds of loans because he can’t decline them anymore which then come good when the people repay them on time and he starts hanging out with his friends again to brighten up his life. It’s all so painfully predictable though, you’ll be able to guess how a slight stumble in Carl’s good fortune will blossom into the necessary happy ending.
The inevitability of Yes Man is made watchable by Carrey’s antics such as bungee jumping and ending up in odd situations such as dining with a mail order bride he couldn’t refuse buying and attending geeky parties run by his nerdy boss: as you would expect Carrey pulls faces and makes fun of those around him in typical style. However, the film suffers from always being a contrived take on Danny Wallace’s book in which the journalist tested the “yes” theory in real life. What Wallace had in authenticity, this film version replaces with outlandish or just plain unlikely offers to Carl which all fit together by the close to make his life perfect. It was always going to be challenging for the writers of this fictional version to retain elements of believability, yet with Carl saving a suicidal man thanks to guitar lessons he would never had were it not for the “yes” philosophy, you need to be in the mood for feather light entertainment to find much enjoyment here. As a result Yes Man slots all too easily into the “generic Jim Carrey movie” and romantic comedy pigeonholes despite the high concept foundation which is wasted by its uninspiring use: only fans of both should make the effort to watch.