Do you see a trend among some comic actors these days? They start off in crazy, zany stuff and then turn to more serious matters, only to return to the giddier roles when they realize the heavier material doesn't pay as well. Think, for example, of Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey. I'm sure they all mean well--every comedian wants to play Hamlet--but sometimes it's best to stick to what you do best. For Carrey, that's certainly comedy, even though his dramatic films have shown that he does have talent in other areas. Anyway, in 2008 he returned to comedy, albeit a restrained (for him) romantic comedy, in "Yes Man." I wasn't expecting much, but it turned out to be quite refreshing.
OK, I admit that Carrey is not my favorite comedic actor. In the past his constant silliness and incessant mugging got on my nerves. Nevertheless, if you remember his "Liar Liar" from 1997 and liked it, you might like this one, too. The premise is similar, and the results are pleasantly amusing most of the time.
In "Yes Man" Carrey plays a mild-mannered, totally sullen, altogether bored bank loan officer, Carl Allen, recently divorced and reduced to sitting alone in his apartment during his time off watching old movies. Even his best friends find him a drag. Until, that is, he goes to a self-help seminar that teaches him to improve his life by saying "yes" to everything. At first he doesn't believe in it, but, perhaps serendipitously, he tries out the new approach and finds life really does open up to him.
He meets a single, free-spirited young lady, Allison (Zooey Deschanel), with whom he builds a relationship; he stops saying "no" to every loan application that comes across his desk and finds that helping people is a lot better for him and for the bank than denying everybody their needs; he learns to speak Korean and to play the guitar and to fly a plane; he even dates a Muslim woman.
The message is simple: Being nice can be more rewarding than being grumpy. OK, the movie borrows heavily from any number of other films, not only like the aforementioned "Liar Liar" but also from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "The Bucket List," and Carrey's own "The Mask." Still, there is nothing wrong with borrowing if it works, and in the case of "Yes Man," it works pretty well.
There are a couple of big laughs in the film (I enjoyed a scene with the next-door neighbor, a horny old lady--don't ask), a few smaller chuckles, and a whole lot of mildly amusing moments that will at least bring a smile to your face.
Carrey puts some of his dramatic experience to appropriate use by holding back on too much of the silliness and mugging I mentioned earlier, his character eventually coming across as a genuinely charming and likable guy. In supporting roles, Zooey Deschanel is appealing as the girl Carl meets by accident; Bradley Cooper is properly supportive as Carl's lawyer buddy; John Michael Higgins is capable as the old friend who persuades Carl to go to the "Yes" seminar; Terance Stamp is his usual menacing yet commanding self as the yes-man guru; and Rhys Darby is a kick as Carl's nerdy boss, desperately in need of fitting in (think of Rick Moranis's character from "Ghostbusters" here; I told you the film borrows heavily).
My only quibbles are few: First, an FBI investigation goes too far and puts a damper on the otherwise lighthearted activities. And, second, Carrey seems a bit too old (he was in his late forties here and beginning to look it) to be hanging out with people in their twenties and early thirties (he must be close to twenty years older than Zooey Deschanel). He could get away with this sort of thing fifteen years ago, even ten years ago, but he's maybe getting a little too middle-aged for it now, and it begins to look awkward. Nevertheless, if we imagine him as a slightly younger man (by a decade), which the movie industry often makes us imagine as actors get older, the film works well enough.
"Yes Man" is a pleasant surprise: a romantic comedy that is cute, amiable, and winning without being excessively tedious, saccharine, or gross. It's one I'll look forward to watching again.
The video is OK, but not outstanding. Using an anamorphic widescreen transfer, the Warner engineers replicate the film's 2.40:1 ratio image in vibrant colors, with hues bright, deep, and strong. If anything, though, the colors are a little too strong, being slightly more vivid than I see in real life. The definition is reasonably sharp and clear (particularly if upscaled, as I watched it), with what looks like a touch of edge enhancement. In direct comparison to the movie's high-definition Blu-ray counterpart, the definition appears a little rough and smeared, but we might expect that of any such comparison.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio works well in the midrange, reproducing dialogue cleanly, and it sounds quite dynamic in the rock-band sequences, in the yes-man guru scene, and in a few action sequences. Indeed, the response is sometimes thunderous. It is only on direct comparison to TrueHD on the movie's Blu-ray version of the movie that one notices the Dolby Digital is a bit less smooth. My only real disappointment is that the director didn't utilize the surround speakers much at all except for some minor musical-ambience enhancement.
There's a decent assortment of extras on the disc. The first is "Down Time on the Set of Yes Man," four minutes with Jim Carrey improvising with the cast, crew, and director. Next is "Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man," thirteen minutes on the film's stunts. After that are five "Munchausen By Proxy" music videos with Zooey Deschanel and the Von Iva band, totaling about fourteen minutes; followed by "Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy," five minutes on Allison's band, Munchausen By Proxy, based on the real San Francisco band Von Iva. To wrap up the bonus items, there is a five-minute gag reel.
The extras conclude with twenty-five scene selections; a bonus digital copy of the film compatible with iTunes and Windows Media; some trailers and promos at start-up; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. A slipcover for the Blu-ray case ties everything together.
For a comedy I was somewhat dreading to watch, not being the world's biggest Jim Carrey fan, "Yes Man" was a breath of fresh air: sweet, witty, cute, harmless, and engaging. I liked the film's characters, I liked the story, I liked most of the gags, and, yes, I even liked its little moral lesson. It's a feel-good movie, and while it may not become a classic, it is quite disarming and passes a pleasant few hours. Heck, with Jim Carrey in the lead, it may even be a chick-flick that most guys can enjoy.