Jim Carrey is one of those American comedy stars that people seem to either love or hate, with no middle ground in between. Until watching 'Yes Man', I belonged quite firmly to the latter group. In previous outings like 'Ace Ventura - Pet Detective' and its follow up as well as a string of other irritating movies, I'd found his gurning, rubber faced antics just a bit too manic and over the top to be funny but with 'Yes Man' he's found a story that doesn't seem so contrived and makes him more appealing to a wider audience thanks to a slightly more mature performance.
It's loosely based on British writer Danny Wallace's book about a guy who agrees to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself.
Carrey's character, Carl Allen, works in a savings and loan company (that's American for a Bank) and hasn't moved up the corporate ladder in 5 years, preferring the safe option of staying within his comfort zone as well as declining loans to people who apply for them. Outside of work he's divorced and stays at home watching DVDs rather than becoming involved in life. He says no to most offers.
A friend drags him along to a 'Say Yes' convention fronted by a charismatic preacher type character played with some credibility by Terrence Stamp, probably because he played a similar character in 'Bowfinger'. Carl is put on the spot and agrees to a covenant to say yes to everything that's put in front of him.
Now this is where the fun begins - and I did find it genuinely funny, not in a hysterical way, but there were some real laugh out loud moments and the whole movie hooks you with anticipation of just what the next situation might be.
As Carl leaves the convention hall he's asked by a 'bum' (translation - tramp, wino, rough sleeper) if he'll give him a lift in his nice car to the local park. Much to the vagrant's surprise Carl says “Yes” and the fragrant fellow admits that most people say “No”, although things seem to be picking up around the hall lately. On the way to the park, the chancer avails himself of Carl's mobile phone and money due to his host's inability to use the 'N' word. Later, our hero's car runs out of fuel and as his mobile battery is flat he can't call out the American equivalent of the AA so is forced to make the long lonely walk to the petrol station with a gallon can.
There he meets the love interest, Allison, played by Zooey Deschanel who has a great dry wit and is gorgeous into the bargain. She also gives him a lift back to his car on her scooter and one thing leads to another. You see how good things come from saying “Yes”?
In old Hollywood tradition boy meets girl, boy loses girl but does he get her back in the end?
Probably the funniest of all the situations is where he's propositioned by his ageing lady neighbour, played by Fionnula Flanagan, but I won't spoil it by giving away too much detail. Let's say you'll have to suck it and see.
Now, someone who says yes to everything is a pretty dangerous person to have in a Bank, particularly when they start dishing out loans to anyone who applies for one.
His ineffectual boss Norm, played by New Zealand funny man Rhys Darby, just lets him get on with it as he doesn't seem to mind what his employee does as long as he likes his boss. I felt the movie was skating on thin ice here as the current recession was triggered by American Banks taking on risky loans - and many people who have been adversely affected by it just won't find this funny. It's the American love of black humour that seems to be the root of this and I just found it a bit uncomfortable.
But hey, relax, it's a comedy after all.
Eventually, all of Carl's 'micro-loans' are noticed by senior management and he's called to a meeting with his immediate boss and 'corporate'. Could this be the end of his career?
The supporting cast is excellent.
Rhys Darby, from 'Flight of the Conchords,' who plays Carrey's boss bears a strong visual resemblance to Mike Myers in his Austin Powers guise. Danny Masterson and Bradley Cooper are Carrey's best friends. Along the way he runs into John Michael Higgins, Molly Sims and Luis Guzman (as a potential jumper) - all faces that you recognise the minute you see them as they're great modern character actors.
The movie is directed with some style by Peyton Reed, who gave us most memorably 'Down With Love,' the visually witty Renee Zellweger/Ewan McGregor romantic comedy homage to the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films of the 1950's.
'Yes Man', in itself, is no Oscar winner but it rises above being the usual unimaginative time slot filler as it has a certain amount of charm, due in no small way to the generally consistent level of humour maintained throughout the movie.
It's all very enjoyable stuff and there's nothing to tax a tired brain so you can just sit back and become involved in it. It avoids being sickly sweet with the love story element and there's no really 'bad taste' humour to make you wish you were somewhere else.
So even if you're not really a Jim Carrey fan, there's enough about this movie to make you want to “Say Yes”.
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