Movie Review: Yes Man

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By Josh Moss

josh@louisville.com

Seems like I must’ve seen the first “Yes Man” trailer in, like, 2006. Probably earlier. You’ve noticed them, too, I’m sure. It’s about a loser named Carl Allen who “says no to life.” Carrey, as always, is believable as the schlemiel we’re supposed to feel sorry for. It’s just that when the dang trailers give away everything — no, seriously, everything — what's the point of paying to see it?

Carl is a junior loan officer at a Los Angeles bank. His wife has divorced him, and, since then, he spends his time rotting away on his couch watching “300.” His friends hit the bars, and Carl says no. His neighbor wants to have him over for breakfast, and Carl says no. His boss invites him to…well, you see the trend. Then Carl bumps into an old acquaintance (John Michael Higgins), who attends seminars hosted by a guru (Terence Stamp). The life-changing philosophy? Say yes to everything.

When Carl's kind to a homeless man, it results in a meeting with Allison (Zooey Deschanel), whom he wouldn’t have met if he hadn’t adopted the new lifestyle. That’s why I’ll buy Carl’s decision to say yes to everything. The first time he does it, it leads to something great. Soon, Carl is slugging Red Bull at a rave with his pals and hanging shelves for a neighbor, an act of kindness that leads to one of the nastier acts of kindness we’ve seen onscreen in some time. What I refuse to buy, however, is the reason the feds develop an interest in Carl’s life. Seems too far-fetched. And the fact that Carl’s ex-wife haphazardly re-enters the picture is unnecessary.

The fun in “Yes Man,” directed by Peyton Reed (“The Break-Up”), is the interaction between Carrey and Deschanel. The two share some fun chemistry, though why would her character, a punk-rocker who teaches an early-morning jogging/photography class (yes, you read that correctly), be interested in Carl? Props go to Rhys Darby. He plays Carl’s boss, Norman, and you’ll recognize him from the HBO show “The Flight of the Conchords.” For some reason, Norman’s uncreative nickname for Carl had us laughing all movie. Bradley Cooper plays Carl’s best friend, and the character is less memorable than Sack, the high-society prick he played in “Wedding Crashers.”

Carrey, for his part, can clearly pull off roles like this one. So, yeah, it’s entertaining to watch him learn to speak Korean and play the guitar. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that his version of Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” on the acoustic guitar is the highlight. And the message about actively living your life is admirable enough.

So what’s the problem? Well, you know, Carrey’s done the foolish comedies before, from “The Mask” and “Dumb & Dumber” to “Bruce Almighty,” “Fun with Dick and Jane,” “Me, Myself & Irene” and the list goes on. After awhile, it seems as if we’ve seen it all before. Thing is, his best performance was in 2004’s revolutionary “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”  There was barely a laugh to be found in that film, and Carrey was excellent. Here’s to saying yes to more of that, and no to the next “Yes Man.”

2 fleurs di lis out of 4