Yes Man

Yes Man

2008, PG-13, 104 min. Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp.

REVIEWED By Theresa Everline, Fri., Dec. 19, 2008

Yes Man opens with Carl (Carrey), a bank loan officer, in a funk, avoiding his friends, brooding at his job, and spending every evening slumped on his sofa watching DVDs. Not exactly depressed, Carl just greets the world with either a sigh or a wince. Then an old acquaintance, Nick (Higgins), the embodiment of the word “gusto,” pushes Carl to attend a self-help seminar led by motivational guru Terrence Bundley (Stamp). Terrence's message, much like his beige yet shiny leisure suit, is banal yet will glint through the consciousness of every “I’d prefer not to” Bartelby sitting in the audience. The life-changing mantra? Say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself. This plot gimmick veers suspiciously close to the 1997 Carrey vehicle Liar Liar, in which his character compulsively tells the truth, even though supernatural intervention is the cause. In contrast, Yes Man believes in free will, with Carl at first struggling to agree to requests small and large, whether it be friends getting him to pick up the bar tab or a homeless person asking for a ride. But soon he’s showered with rewards, including a pretty new girlfriend played by actor/singer Deschanel, who’s wide-eyed and good-hearted but without a lot of range – a fair description of the film itself. A repeated motif has Carl learning a random skill (Korean lessons? Sure!), which a few scenes later turns out to be precisely what he needs to solve a problem (a surly Korean saleswoman) and make everyone happy. As the good results roll in and Carl starts uttering “yes” without hesitation, Yes Man becomes less a story and more a collection of set-pieces. True, the scenes are often amusing, and a good dose of ad-libbing keeps the tone appealingly wobbly. Although Deschanel proves to be generally engaging – her art-rock band performance is a hoot – she sometimes seems to just go blank, while Stamp, voice booming and eyes narrowing, wrings what he can out of his two scenes. Carrey does his usual job here, but it’s not enough. The New Zealander Darby, from The Flight of the Conchords, whisks the film out from underneath Carrey’s nose with his consistently funny turn as Carl’s nerdy, needy boss, Norman. Nevertheless, Yes Man proves utterly formulaic. Is there a feel-good gathering of everyone Carl has helped? Is there a trumped-up romantic crisis? Is there a mad crosstown dash? You guess the answers.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Peyton Reed Films
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvel's crime caper comedy sequel gets bigger, smaller, but still fun

Richard Whittaker, July 6, 2018

Ant-Man
The Marvel Universe expands to include comedy

Josh Kupecki, July 17, 2015

More by Theresa Everline
Not Easily Broken
In this film based on a novel by pastor and bestselling author T.D. Jakes, a couple hits a rough patch in their marriage but eventually discovers that their vows are "not easily broken."

Jan. 16, 2009

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer
This celebratory documentary skips briskly over the 60-plus-year career of one of jazz's pre-eminent and most original singers.

Nov. 28, 2008

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Yes Man, Peyton Reed, Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle