Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Yes Man


Review by Patrick Hodges

Here’s a quiz:  name a movie where Jim Carrey plays a normal guy, a guy who is likeable enough but with one or two major personality flaws, and over the course of the film, learns what is truly most precious to him and is able to turn his life around an achieve true happiness.  What movie am I describing?  If you said Liar, Liar?  You are correct.  Bruce Almighty?  Correct again.  Yes Man?  You’re three-for-three!

Hmm.  When you put it that way, it does sound rather formulaic and predictable, doesn’t it?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, much; if something works, don’t mess with success.  And you’ll be glad to know that Yes Man, despite its predictability, is very sweet and outrageously funny.

Carrey plays Carl Allen, a divorced guy living alone and working a menial job as a loan officer at a bank.  You know the type - the guy who putters along, saying “no” to almost everything that comes his way: social activities, fun, you name it.  But when an old acquaintance talks him into attending a seminar presided over by a renowned self-help guru (Terence Stamp) – who drags his flaws right out into the light – Carl vows to say “yes” to absolutely everything, including learning how to play guitar and speak Korean (two skills that will end up coming in handy later on).  Carl also meets, and becomes enamored of, a free-spirited musician (Zooey Deschanel), a girl who is the polar opposite of his “former” self, and the development of their relationship contributes to a lot of the film’s sweet and poignant moments.

The film, you’ll be glad to know, is also hysterically funny in places.  (The scene where he uses his newfound guitar skills - you’ll know it when you see it – is a scream.)  You’ll also be glad to know that Carl’s change of heart comes naturally, and not as the result of a plot contrivance like a magical birthday wish or divine intervention.  It actually plays out kind of like an episode of My Name is Earl, especially in a couple of places when Carl is tempted to say no/stray off the path, and is – conveniently and immediately – slapped in the face by karma (which is also funny, by the way).

The message here is obvious:  live life to the fullest.  If there’s one thing Carrey has done well, it’s get said message across without beating us over the head with it.  I know that sounds incongruous, given his penchant for over-the-top physical comedy, but it’s true.  The days when he gets laughs by talking out of his posterior are gone, and he knows that, and somehow, he still reminds us that he hasn’t lost his touch.

Final word:  while Yes Man is not his funniest movie ever, and will probably not be his biggest success ever, it’s still worth the price of admission.  It will keep you laughing out loud, and it never gets overly silly or sappy, which are two things that kill a film for me.  Check it out, or add it to your Carrey collection.

4 / 5 stars

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