Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yes Man

Carl Allen is a bit of a loser; he's divorced, he's alone, he's going nowhere in his job, and he's afraid to try anything. His situation has gotten so bad that he's avoiding his best friend's phone calls, and putting their friendship at risk. He's well on the road to a lonely sad existence.

One day, while taking his lunch break at work, and old friend runs into him, and tells him about a seminar that turned his life around. “Yes Is The New No” proclaims the pamphlet that is thrust into Carl's pocket. After much deliberation and a bad dream, Carl decides to go to the seminar.

At the almost cult-like seminar, Carl meets speaker Terrance Bundley (Terrance Stamp), who of course singles Carl out in front of everyone. Terrance coerces Carl into making a covenant with himself and the universe to say yes to all new opportunities. Carl must no longer be a “no man”, but a “yes man”, because as Bundley puts it “You cannot audit life”.

Saying yes quickly leads Carl to find himself out of gas with a flat cell phone battery and no cash in a park in the middle of the night. It also leads him to meeting Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a scooter riding singer/artist/jogging photography teacher who gives him a ride back to his car.

Carl's new agreeable outlook causes him to make friends with his annoying supervisor Norman (Rhys Darby), gets him a promotion, causes him to learn new things, and make new friends. It even causes him to possibly find true love. The question though is, what happens if you say “yes” too much? What can it ultimately cost you?

Based on the book by the same name from Danny Wallace, “Yes Man” is a throwback to Jim Carrey's early films like “The Mask” or “Liar Liar”. Carrey plays Carl as a very normal person who ends up in an unusual situation that offers many chances for Carey to pull funny faces and generally act like a spaz. Given some of Carey's more serious role choices in recent years (“The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “The Number 23”), it is nice to see him return to his roots, and it's especially nice to see that he can do it so well.

Music plays a surprising role in this film; not only does that movie have a strong soundtrack, but both Carl and Allison do their own share of singing. Carl sings a couple of times in the film, and they're not quite musical numbers, but one comes kind of close. The musical highlight of the film has to be Allison's band “M√ľnchhausen By Proxy” played by Deschanel and the all-girl trio Von Iva. MBP's songs featured in the film are so truly awful that they are cool, and have me strongly considering picking up the soundtrack.

The movie features a cast that works great together. Carey and Deschanel are pretty believable as a couple despite the fact that Carey is actually old enough to be Deschanel's father. Appearance's by Rhys Darby (“The Flight of the Conchords”), Sasha Alexander (“NCIS”), and Danny Masterson (“That 70's Show”) not only help to flesh out the world Carl lives in, but symbolize the different aspects of what being a “yes man” means; how this new outlook can do good and helpful things, but also how it can be taken advantage of.

As you might expect, there is nothing original here. The story progresses exactly the way you would expect it to, but that's okay. “Yes Man” manages to attach a lot of laughs to that old familiar boy-meets-girl plot progression. There's enough well performed dialog, physical humor, gross outs, and even a bit of Harry Potter cosplay to keep you entertained throughout the film.

“Yes Man” is rated PG-13, and may not be appropriate for younger audiences. The film contains a good amount of swearing, some strong sexual content, and a couple of scene with brief nudity, but if that doesn't bother you, and you are a fan of Jim Carrey's older work then this will be a nice little escape from the holiday season.

I give an unreserved “yes” to “Yes Man”, which hits theaters nationwide on December 17th.

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