Audiences will say “yes” to this energized, easy-watching tale of an antisocial, bummed-out L.A. junior loan officer who is suckered into a rousing seminar of the “Power of Yes” movement and swallowed into its frenzied mantra of even saying “yes” to complete strangers and their dubious requests. As with all his best films, Jim Carrey, this generation’s Jerry Lewis, carries this one big-time. What sets apart both comedians from their peers is that it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in their better roles.
There’s nothing deep here in this latest from director Peyton Reed (Bring It On). But premium Carrey antics are blissfully seasonal, a welcome and shiny holiday package for the laugh-prone of all ages.
Yes Man, based on Scottish-born humorist Danny Wallace’s memoir, kicks off as bank drone Carl Allen (Carrey) sinks deeper into funky isolation. Battered by his failed marriage to dismissive Stephanie (Molly Sims) and a dreary bank job, he avoids friends and social opportunities, saying “no” to all invitations, including best buddy Peter’s (Bradley Cooper) engagement bash and nerdy boss Norm’s (New Zealand comedian Rhys Darby, making his film debut) dopey theme parties. Carl fakes interest but opts to nest solo at home, watching junky horror flicks rented from the video store.
After Carl bumps into former colleague Nick (John Michael Higgins), who is afire as a manic “Yes” convert and slips him a brochure for an upcoming seminar, Carl takes a stab. There, the magnetic “Yes” leader Terrence (Terence Stamp) singles out Carl among the hundreds in the audience and bullies him into adopting his program of responding positively to everyone because “Yes is the new no.”
Hooked, Carl gives lifts to bums and lends them money, says “yes” to every dubious loan request, and even attends pathetic rock-club gigs hyped by pushy musician wannabes with their cheesy flyers.
Saying “yes” does have its advantages, as proven by Carl’s openness that leads him to free-spirit singer/yoga teacher/photographer Allison (Zooey Deschanel), who rescues him on her motorcycle after one of his good deeds leaves him stranded with a car out of gas. Soon they’re an item, and Carl takes Allison on an impulsive trip to Omaha, where his yes-ing catches up with him.
Of course, most of the film’s best comic situations arise from Carl’s multiple, wacky assents (he learns Korean, takes flying lessons, says “yes” to an elderly neighbor’s sexual advances, gets blasted and pays for a wild night at a club with his buddies, etc.).
L.A. locations like the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Bowl serve the film well and a stunt—done by Carrey himself—that has his character bungee-jumping and swinging from Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge is pretty awesome.
Yes Man is a hoot, but audiences may notice that Warner Bros., giving the film a slight QVC whiff, said “yes” to too much product placement.