Yes Man **1/2
Directed by Peyton Reed
Written by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, and Andrew Mogel, based on the book by Danny Wallace
Jim Carrey as Carl
Zooey Deschanel as Alison
Bradley Cooper as Peter
John Michael Higgins as Nick
Rhys Darkby as Norman
Terence Stamp as Terrence Bundley
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity.
2008 was a year filled with great comedies, and films like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" creating crude characters and situations, and yet showing an emotional side that makes them something more. And films like "Pineapple Express" and "Tropic Thunder" both creating some wild and insane satires. "Yes Man" is a little more low-key than all the others, attempting to create a showcase for Jim Carrey's insane comedic ramblings. But its a concept comedy, and works within its concept to the point where it becomes tiring, and despite a few hard laughs one must admit that after an hour the lack of any strong conflict really makes "Yes Man" a pointless endeavor.
Carrey plays Carl, a meek bank employee who declines nearly every loan. He also says "no" to life, especially after he divorced his model wife Stephanie. This annoys his close friends, who cannot suggest a party or a night out with the guys to Carl, as he will turn them down and opt to sit at home watching videos. And then Carl is inspired by an old bank employee to attend a conference led by self-help guru Terrence Bundley, who proclaims to Carl that he must say "yes" to every opportunity that presents itself. Carl tries it out once he leaves the meeting, and through a chain of events ends up meeting Alison, who impulsively ends up kissing him. Carl wonders if saying "yes" to everything will ultimately always lead to good, and he does not let anything pass him by.
The writers opt for situation comedy here instead of using the characters to creating funny situations, if that makes any sense. It finds itself in a formula, and for a while there is no conflict in the movie to speak of. It does lead to several funny situations, one of the best being a "Dress as Your Favorite Harry Potter Character" party that is hosted by Carl's boss Norman. Norman is played by Rhys Darby, who steals every scene that he's in, much like he steals his scenes on "Flight of the Conchords." And while some of these situations work, like the aforementioned party or Carl marrying a woman from Peru because of a spam email that he gets, several of them fall flat, such in the case as Carl and several others engage in a sing-a-long to get a man down off the ledge of a building.
The love story between Carl and Alison is handled quite well, as Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel have their share of chemistry together. Their scenes together have their share of romance in them, despite the fact that the writers attempt to make Alison as quirky as can be, even through her band's music where the lyrics are all very exact retellings of annoyances from her past boyfriend. The performances they give are very good, and almost better than this script deserves.
After a while, the movie itself gets quite tiresome. By the last twenty five minutes, the movie begins to really stretch to pad the running time. The conflict that eventually arises between Carl and Alison is very forced and done in a completely silly way, and then the film endlessly keeps going. The script clearly runs out of steam, which is understandable considering the limited plot that it has. "Yes Man" does offer a few laughs and funny situations, but as a whole it does not justify itself as a film, and relies on sitcom elements for laughs instead of properly exploring the characters within. It's a somewhat decent diversion during the holiday season, but cannot be recommended in a month filled with bigger and better films.