If Yes Man featured Paul Rudd or Jack Black, the main character would have been warmer and closer to the age of his best friends. If the lead in Yes Man was played by Seth Rogan, it would have been dirtier, but still heartwarming. However, Yes Man stars Jim Carrey, the once golden comedian of Hollywood, who seemed a bit old and tired throughout this film.
Yes Man stars Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar) as a man who suffers from a mild depression after his ex-wife leaves him, which causes him to spout "no" as often as he's asked a question. He lets his friends and family down, and faces a major slump at work (he's a loan officer, an important plot device). However, when Carl (Jim Carrey) runs into an old friend played by John Michael Higgins (The Breakup, Waiting for Guffman) and the two attend a self-help seminar run by the brilliant Terence Stamp (The Limey, Superman 2), everything changes. Stamp plays a guru who creates a philosophy of saying “yes” to as many things as possible because it opens up life's possibilities. Carrey takes this to the extreme and by the end of the first night, he has driven to a remote part of Los Angles just to give a homeless man a ride home.
The further along Carrey goes into his "yes" philosophy the more success he has in life. He meets a charming young singer along the way, played by the surprisingly lively Zooey Deschanel (The Happening, Elf), he gets a raise and a promotion at work, and he expands his life experiences to include flying lessons, speaking Korean and being taken care of by old ladies. His friends discover and take advantage of Carrey's agreeable nature, but he doesn't seem to let it bother him. He even saves a man's life using a guitar, a Third Eye Blind song and some quick use of the skills he's developed.
The concept of Yes Man is fine, and the supporting cast does their part, but most Jim Carrey films center so much around the main character that if he is not 100% “on,” the film suffers. The second half of the film has more energy than the first half, and there are some vintage Jim Carrey sequences, but it isn't enough to carry Yes Man. Carrey seems to be bored with screwball and semi-screwball comedies as evidenced by his performances in Fun with Dick and Jane, and now in Yes Man. As Robin Williams's career moved toward more serious roles (Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King), it seems Jim Carrey desires to be a latter day Tom Hanks, rather than producing comedy after comedy.
The supporting cast in Yes Man, other than Zooey Deschanel, has no big names, and suffers because of it. Bradley Cooper (The Wedding Crashers), Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) and Danny Masterson (That 70's Show) do their best to play Jim Carrey's collective straight men, but they are just not up to the task of trying to be his equal. Other Jim Carrey films that paired him with Matthew Broderick (Cable Guy), Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber) and Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty) strengthened Mr. Carrey's performances. In Yes Man, Jim Carrey is basically left to carry the weight of comedy on his shoulders, and he just doesn't seem to be up to the task.
Yes Man is not a terrible film, certainly better than quite a few other comedies out right now, but not quite up to par with the kinds of films one would expect from such an accomplished comedian as Jim Carrey.
Rated PG-13. Runtime 104 min. Theatrical release 12/19/2008
PR.com Rating: C+