Fri 19 Dec 2008
Helmet aside, I still really want your phone number.
Theatrical Release Date: 12/19/2008
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, John Michael Higgins, Terrence Stamp, Molly Sims, Sasha Alexander
Like Vanessa Williams says, “Save the best for last” (Also, there’s something about a “comfort zone” but let’s leave that alone right now). With “Yes Man”, Hollywood has waited right until the end of the year to release its best comedy of 2008.
Jim Carrey hasn’t had a live action comedy hit since 2003 (“Fun with Dick & Jane” shouldn’t be defined as a comedy … or a hit … or very good). He’s dabbled in different genres in that time and while I’ve enjoyed those efforts, it feels like a breath of fresh air to see him once again in the comedy spotlight. And while many are quick to point out the similarities to “Liar, Liar”, the relationship dynamics and pacing of this film work far better, not to mention this isn’t based upon the premise that someone can wish for a drastic behavioral change in another person.
Instead of metaphysical chicanery, the premise of “Yes Man” is right out of a self-help book (which may not be a ton better but at least it’s rooted in a more tangible reality). Carrey still holds onto the bitter taste of a divorce and refuses to move on with his life but is politely coerced into attending a life seminar hosted by Terrence Stamp who plays what could best be described as an Infomercial Life coach. He preaches to people that saying Yes to the opportunities presented to them will greatly increase their quality of life.
From that point on, Carrey says Yes to anyone for any reason, fearful that reluctance to accept those opportunities will cause him harm. Through the power of positive acceptance, he meets a girl (Zooey Deschanel), gets a promotion at work, repairs his fractured friendships and even manages to enrich the lives of those around him (including Luis Guzmán in maybe my favorite cameo of the year).
Carrey is back in his fine, funny form here, amidst a very talented comedic cast. They all work together to create a mix of oddball and genuine characters that blend together quite well. Zooey, especially, does a wonderful job of using her wit and charm to play off of Carrey’s zanier antics. She has more than a few quirks to her in the film (which is par for the course for her) and all of those eccentricities only make liking her character than much easier.
Terrence Stamp is also a standout here, fully embracing all of the qualities necessary to pull off such a powerful and dynamic character. Normally, he is ensconced in serious roles that call for someone of his dramatic presence. Here, he deftly turns that gravitas into comic gold, playing his character at full speed, holding nothing back.
Kudos also must go to Rhys Darby and John Michael Higgins for their efforts. Darby’s hilarious and adorable take on a bank manager (with a healthy love for Harry Potter) is a nice contrast to Carrey’s much more traditional loan officer. And Higgins’ obsessive dedication to the power of Yes, coupled with Stamp’s scary stamp of approval, is almost enough to get me on board … and I say no to just about everything.
I could go on and on about specific scenes that I really enjoyed but that would take most of the fun for you actually going to see it. The film contains truckloads of heart and boat loads of funny jokes. On a train or a plane, the film works the same (sorry, his involvement in “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” couldn’t be resisted).
I definitely say Yes to “Yes Man” and when weighing the factors necessary in a complete comedy, I’m going to go ahead and give it a 4.5 out of 5. It balances the humor with the heart so very well and creates distinct characters that make repeated viewing just as fun. There is one raunchy, recurring gag that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the film and would have better been served remaining on the cutting room floor but this is still an easy recommendation to both Jim Carrey fans and those looking to find something on the lighter side this holiday season. Now, if I could only get Bill Gates to say Yes to my personal bailout plan …