December 18, 2008

Yes Man

We're too late - Sarah Palin's already been here.

Grade: C +

Director: Peyton Reed

Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, Molly Sims, and Terence Stamp

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey played an unpleasant chronic fibber forced by mystical powers to start always telling the truth. Eleven years later (!) in Yes Man, Carrey plays an unpleasant naysayer forced by a mystical self-help guru (Terence Stamp, also reprising a previous role from Bowfinger) to always say “yes” to everything in order to turn his frown upside down.

Unfortunately, Yes Man feels less like a triumphant return to Carrey’s movie comedy roots than a nostalgic pratfall down memory lane. Now 46-years-old, Carrey’s spasmodic zaniness has lost its freshness and utility. Every time Carrey contorts his face into a rubbery visage, whether to express romantic nervousness or approximate the body’s reaction to a Red Bull overdose, it feels like a desperate attempt to buttress scenes with little underlying comedic foundation.

As a result of his affirmative reactions, Carrey’s Carl Allen gets promoted at his humdrum job as a L.A. bank loan officer and meets-cute a quirky gal named Allison (Zooey Deschanel). How do we know Allison is quirky? Well, she wears a scooter helmet with eyes painted in them, she organizes a morning jogging photography club, and she sings lead for alt rock band named “Munchausen by Proxy.” Oh, and she’s played by Zooey Deschanel.

For his part, Carl also discovers the sunny side of attending Harry Potter theme parties, flying to Lincoln, Nebraska on a whim, and oral sex from his elderly neighbor. As inane as the idea that a person would impulsively be willing to agree to anything – starting with giving a homeless person a ride in his car and all the money in his wallet – is that, somewhere along the way, Yes Man morphs from trumpeting the hidden benefits of being agreeable to a unnecessary knockoff of Pay It Forward.

Raleigh-born director Peyton Reed (The Break Up; Down with Love) frames an already rickety script with flat, labored direction. Yes Man has its moments, foremost among them Carl’s Third Eye Blind serenade to coax a suicide jumper (Luis Guzman) off a building’s ledge. On the other hand, a sidebar in which Carl is suspected of being a domestic terrorist is just plain dumb. Before you feel compelled to “just say yes,” make sure to first say “no” to Yes Man.

Neil Morris

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