I know what you want to hear. You want to hear that "Yes Man" marks a return to form for Jim Carrey, who was one of America's most successful comic actors ("Mask," "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar') before he decided he wanted to become one of America's most successful dramatic actors and things got a little troubling ("The Majestic," "The Number 23").
(As an aside, let me say right here, however, that I love "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," even if it is part of Carrey's "dramatic period.")
Unfortunately, no one can honestly say that about "Yes Man," although probably someone will. Carrey is certainly funny, and it's nice to see him back in purely comedic territory. But the movie gets bogged down a bit in its conceit, which is this: he has to say "yes" to everything because he promised himself he would.
The film opens with a typical day for Carl Allen (Carrey), a loan officer at a regional bank branch. He's avoiding calls from his best friend, Peter (Bradley Cooper), because he doesn't like to go out. When he does go out, he's worried about avoiding his ex-wife, Stephanie (Molly Sims). At work, he avoids his boss, Norman (a hilarious Rhys Darby from "Flight of the Concords" fame), who is the prototypical geek. Carl spends his evenings inside, watching movies on DVD.
In other words, he's an exaggerated version of quite a few people you probably know, perhaps even yourself.
But things change radically when Carl bumps into old friend Nick (John Michael Higgins) outside of the bank in one of those awkward "movie coincidence" moments. Seems Nick has been traveling the world and living large since he attended a conference led by a motivational speaker (the always great Terence Stamp) who encourages his followers to say "yes" to everything.
After having a dream in which his friends find him dead and can't tell the difference, Carl decides to attend the conference. Once there, he is forced to make a "covenant" with himself and say "yes" to everything, no matter how crazy. When he is warned that if he doesn't follow through, bad things will happen to him, Carl believes.
That's why he ends up giving a ride and all his money to a homeless person, having an intimate encounter with a senior citizen, getting in a bar fight, learning to fly an airplane and speak Korean, and taking guitar lessons. Oh, and meeting the beautiful, quirky Allison (Zooey Deschanel), who fronts a rock band and leads a "jogging photography" class. He even has to agree to attend a Harry Potter party at Norman's house.
This is the best section of the film because 1) it's funny scene after funny scene and 2) it makes you realize how much all of us say "no" all the time, and what can happen when you open yourself up to the possibilities.
But things get less funny and more formulaic as the film marches toward its inevitable conclusion - Allison is going to learn about Carl's strange decision to say "yes" all the time, and she's not going to be happy about that ("does he really love me or is it just because he had to say yes to me all the time?") and then he's going have to persuade her to love him anyway.
Still, Carrey's a funny man, especially with the physical stuff, and while the movie's greeting card philosophy isn't all that deep - come on, it's Christmas. Lighten up.
Yes Man **½
MOVIE BOARD RATING: PG-13; crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity
STARS: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Terence Stamp, Bradley Cooper
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed
LOCATION: See movie times, Page 9, for local show times.
PLOT SUMMARY: An extremely negative person decides to change his life by saying "yes" to every opportunity and request that comes his way.
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
ON THE WEB: http://yesis thenewno.warnerbros.com