Published Dec 19, 2008Yes, the setup is essentially the same as Liar Liar - instead of telling the truth, Jim Carrey has to say "yes" to everything - but Yes Man wisely avoids much of its predecessor's earnestness. Balancing light-hearted humour, self-awareness and a bit of sweetness, it rises above its familiar framework.
Carrey plays bank drone Carl Allen, a serial video renter, near-perpetual call screener and general automaton. He ducks experience and tolerates ennui until freewheeling acquaintance Nick (John Michael Higgins) - his five o'clock shadow denotes his fun-loving iconoclasm - introduces him to a cult of acquiescence. Pledging to say "yes" to everything, Allen's life gradually improves.
Thankfully, Carrey largely underplays his part, toning down his typical rubber-faced antics. He's a better actor than he usually gets credit for (see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and this is in his wheelhouse. Some of the comedy is obvious (i.e., geriatric fellatio, a hospital gown ass shot and the '80s ending), though nonetheless rewarding. Furthermore, in the atypical romantic foil role, Zooey Deschanel's sweet quirkiness smoothes away Carrey's slapstick inclinations and the two form a strangely cohesive pair.
The supporting cast brims with funny background players and Carrey and director, Peyton Reed give them room to work. Terrence Stamp's turn as a charismatic self-help guru joyously takes the piss out of Tony Robbins and rivals Tom Cruise's smarmy Magnolia shtick. Rhys Darby, in a slight variation on his Flight of the Conchords character (he doesn't have a goatee), steals scenes along the way and Luis Guzman kills in his five minutes despite the Third Eye Blind song. Even Wedding Crashers' Bradley Cooper and DJ MomJeans (aka That '70s Show's Danny Masterson) get laughs.
Yes Man seems like an easy cash grab and, to an extent, it is, yet Carrey's full commitment (he learned Korean phonetically, broke a rib in a fight scene and bungee jumped off a bridge), Reed's brisk pacing and the rest of the cast's comic acuity redeem it from its weak central conceit. And Zooey Deschanel's in it. Did I already mention that? (Warner)