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    Yes Man

    Wed, 17 Dec 2008 17:31:47

    Movie Reviews: Yes Man

    The insurmountable problem with Yes Man is that Jim Carrey comes across as condescending and miserable even when he is supposed to be enjoying himself. Unfortunately, this describes not only his sour-until-supposedly-sweet character, but Carrey the actor, who seems not only uncommitted here but embarrasingly uninvolved.

    He's not helped by director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up), who manages to make what should have been a breezy, high-concept romp feel dragged out and dull.

    The movie's premise couldn't be simpler: Antisocial nine-to-fiver Carl (Carrey) resolves to improve his boring life by saying "yes" to every question. After he makes that commitment, he worries that saying "no" will invite instant bad karma. Nearly all of his automatic affirmatives (even to dangerous proposals and ones that take advantage of his generosity) eventually have good outcomes, making the movie a weird hybrid of Pay It Forward and Liar Liar. Carl runs out of gas after reluctantly agreeing to give a filthy bum a lift, but manages to meet sunnily eccentric scooter girl Allison (Zooey Deschanel) when he hikes to the gas station.

    Instead of flopping on the couch to watch rented DVDs every night, Carl learns Korean and how to play the guitar, skills which come in handy later. Approving every nutty loan request at the bank where he works pays off in a promotion, because all of his clients turn out to be so good about making their payments. (Obviously, this movie wrapped production before the current economic meltdown.)

    How could such a surefire "getting gloomy Gus out of his rut" idea go wrong? Lots of ways, including subverting what should have been the main premise. Agreeing to acts of kindness and to the idea of trying new things works. But Carl comes off as a pathetic patsy when he says "yes" to tasks such as doing laundry for someone who knows the superstitious Carl won't say "no."

    Carl's boss at the bank (Rhys Darby) is a screamingly nerdish twit whose hammy attempts at silliness are exactly not how the character should have been played. Instead of a bizarrely immature Austin Powers impersonator, the boss should have been a no-nonsense authority figure representing the mundane reality that Carl is trying to escape.

    Also, Carl's creepy courtship of Allison sometimes makes him seem like a slightly psychotic stalker. Breaking into the Hollywood Bowl after hours with Allison for a romantic night under the stars, good. Jokingly telling Allison that if she got famous as a singer Carl would become her biggest fan and kill her, bad.

    There's also an obvious-to-the-point-of-awkward 18-year age difference between Carrey and Deschanel. (Fun fact: Both were born on January 17, Carrey in 1962 and Deschanel in 1980.) Pursuing someone young enough to be his daughter isn't something that anyone asks Carl to do, so there's not that excuse—although it could be argued that most middle-aged men wouldn't need any such prompting. Still, it's odd that neither character mentions their generation gap.

    Deschanel is the movie's bright spot, playing a sweetly sarcastic free spirit who is good at looking both adoring and adorable. Whether teaching a course in photography-while-jogging or fronting a quirky band called Munchausen by Proxy, she's always effortlessly charming.

    As for the rest of the movie: Just say "no."

    —James Dawson

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