– Summary –
Director :Peyton Reed
Cast : Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Terrence Stamp, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Maile Flanagan, Danny Masterson, Sasha Alexander, Molly Simms, Fionulla Flanagan, Luis Guzman.
Year Of Release : 2008
Length : 100 minutes
Synopsis: A man renowned for saying no to everything is tasked with saying “yes” to everything, ensuring some wild adventures and implausible situations arise, leading to some moments of hilarity.
Review : Carbon copy of Liar Liar, without the humour, and a complete waste of everybody’s time. Carrey should have known better.
Let me start this review by saying that I am an avowed Jim Carrey fan. Since his comedic rise to the top in Ace Ventura and The Mask back in the mid-nineties, Carrey has been consistently good in almost everything he’s done. Liar Liar, perhaps one of the greatest comedies made since film went to colour, The Grinch, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Dumb & Dumber, heck, even The Number 23 had touches of his class; I have followed his career with admiration and wonder as he’s tried and tested himself in almost every genre. I even thought he deserved an Oscar for the commercially unflattering Man In The Moon, but alas, t’was not to be. His style of comedy has remained pretty much the same, but then you can always argue that if you’re onto a good thing, stick with it. I have yet to see a Jim Carrey comedy that I didn’t flat out like. Okay, so Cable Guy was… dark, but it was still watchable, if not entirely enjoyable. I’d be hard pressed to think of a film Carrey’s been in that I haven’t enjoyed, or at least admired and appreciated for what was attempted.
Yes Man, a film based upon a novel (and true events) by Englishman Danny Wallace, tells of bored and depressed banker Carl (Carrey), who is challenged by a lifestyle guru (Terrence Stamp, having a wonderful time!) to say “yes” to everything. No matter what he’s asked, Carl must respond with “yes”, rather than his typically dull and pointless “no”. His friends are on the borderline of casting him aside, since his ex-wife Stephanie left him for another man. His boss at the bank, Norman (Rhys Darby) is a socially inept and klutzy nerd with Harry Potter fetishes, who desires nothing more that Carl’s friendship and respect. His neighbour, Tilly (a truly funny Fionnula Flanagan!) seems intent on flirting with Carl at every available opportunity, much to Carls disgust.
So when he chooses to say “yes” to everything henceforth, it leads to some pretty bizarre and “life affirming” moments for himself, the best of which is meeting, and falling for, a young musician/photographer/personal trainer named Allison (Zooey Deshanel). In true Carrey style, he mugs and careens through the film with the buzz and energy of a man twenty years younger, and although looking a little ragged around the edges, proves that he’s still one of the best, and most successful, comedians getting about Hollywood today. But Yes Man is a tanker, a killjoy of a film, reliant on less comedy per minute than a Harlequin Romance novel. Carrey struggles to keep the material afloat, and can merely only manage a few sniggers for the majority of the movie’s running time. Indeed, there’s about three moments in the whole film which are genuinely, laugh out loud, funny. One involves having to say “yes” to Tilly, and another involves Red Bull. I won’t give too much away, but they’re in the trailer and they’re the best bits in the film. Darn it.
Generally, though, it’s the direction I fault here for this films overall failing. Director Peyton Reed, no stranger to comedy himself with film credits like Down With Love, Bring It On, and the Jennifer Ansiton hit The Break Up, turns this film into a decidedly slow, dull and lifeless affair, with an obvious reliance on Carrey to prop up what is otherwise a fairly benign screenplay. The camera work is good, but nothing fancy, and the editing allows the pedestrian story to wallow in Yawnsville, rather than keeping things zipping along. Unfortunately, Carrey isn’t the best proponent of dialogue driven comedy, (which isn’t his fault) however, there’s a fair degree of that uncomfortable “awkward silence” humour that gets you only so far in a movie like this, before it really transcends into “lazy comedy” of the worst calibre. And the dialogue falls flat at almost every turn. So Carrey is working twice as hard to keep things ticking. His best work in the film, however, comes with Ryhs Darby, a New Zealand born stand-up comedian making his mark in his first major Hollywood release. Darby is so good at the awkward “is he stupid or just an idiot” shtick that you almost forget he’s actually an actor, and his scenes with Carrey should be brutally hilarious: they are not, and fall flat. Perhaps it was the audience that we watched this with, but nobody was laughing at Norman and Carl trying to “bro'” it up in the office, and it was almost cringe inducing.
Deschanel is undeniably gorgeous to watch, and her screen chemistry is magnificent and real; yet with Carrey she seems to be acting to somebody else, almost as if they rotoscoped Carrey in afterwards, such is the lack of emotion she has in this script. Carrey tries hard, but there’s nothing there for an audience to hang it’s hat on. I get the strangest feeling that Reed and Co were probably angling for somebody else to match Carreys’ timing and comedic skill, and couldn’t get them, so had to go with screen savant Deschanel instead: perhaps the film fatal mistake. After all, it’s their chemistry and story that the audience is supposed to become involved in, and it fails to capture your emotions. Which means the film fails utterly.
You get the sense that Reed was going for the likeable pantomime-style farce he gave us cinematically with Down With Love, which for me is criminally underrated (and the subject of a future review) but just simply stuffed it up. I know the lady sitting behind me was whooping it up almost every moment Carrey was on screen, but then, I think she had some kind of mental condition allowing her to laugh even in completely inappropriate moments, and thus renders her opinion void. The film begins slowly, tentatively, like the cast and crew aren’t really sure what style of comedy they’re aiming for, and builds into a pretty decent kind of “depressed man coming good” narrative, undone by some hamfisted direction and some numbingly dull “character development”.
Perhaps the key downfall of the film is that it’s transplanting the decidedly English humour and origins into an American comedy styling, and if this is true, then it’s no wonder the film feels a little flat. American comedy doesn’t “do” UK comedy all that well. Nether do they “do” Aussie comedy well either, after all, just look at the failed debacle of Kath And Kim! So taking a book written in England, by an Englishman, and set in the UK, and transplanting it’s dialogue-y sensibilites into Yank-speak, probably won’t work that well. Still, if it makes back its money, then it’s been worth it, right? But at what cost?
Overall, Yes Man is a lacklustre comedy, stealing bits and pieces from other, better Carrey movies and trying to rehash some old material. It’s a little strange to be saying this, but this is one Carrey movie that really doesn’t bear up to a repeat viewing, and I don’t say that lightly. For a mildly amusing night in front of the box with the girlfriend, it will probably do okay, but if you might want to stick to renting this one only. Although, if this is the first Carrey film I’ve not enjoyed as much as normal, then the man’s done okay so far.