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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Yes Man

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Yes Man –    “Affirmative” Actions Prove Positive for Jim Carrey

In 1997’s Liar Liar, Jim Carrey portrayed a man who was forced to tell the truth and nothing but the truth for 24 hours, as a birthday gift to his son. That plot device opened the door for several funny situations and circumstances which, of course, took advantage of the actor’s comedic talents. Eleven years later, on a variation of that scenario, Carrey once again plays someone who goes to the extreme of behavior modification, but on a more positive note.

Jim Carrey is Carl Allen, a guy stuck in a doldrums existence as a loan officer at a bank by day, and at night prefers to stay home alone in his apartment and watch movies he’s rented from a video store. It’s been three years since his wife, Stephanie (Molly Sims) left him, and he has issues.  Afraid he would not be accepted for the way he is Carl figures just saying no is easier than going out on a limb and taking a chance on life.  In trying to get Carl out of his self imposed rut, best friend Pete (Bradley Cooper), keeps inviting him out to share fun times with friends but is always met with lame excuses and warns Carl that if he doesn’t change his ways he will wind up a lonely guy.

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The opportunity arises to transform Carl’s life when an old buddy (John Michael Higgins) convinces him to attend a Yes Man seminar by self help guru Terrance Bundley (Terrance Stamp), whose philosophy is to embrace life by saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself, because according to Bundley, no is not an option while yes always leads to something good.

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Although reluctant to try out the philosophy, Carl agrees to make a covenant to himself and say yes to everything that comes his way.  Before you know it, Carl is taking flying lessons, guitar lessons, learns how to speak Korean, goes bungee jumping, orders a Persian bride on the internet, helps his best friend’s fiancé put together her wedding shower, and even agrees to oral sex with Tilly, his horny elderly next door neighbor (Fionulla Flanagan); all of which allow for varying degrees of humor.

Carl soon discovers that his new approach to life has unexpectedly changed his life for the better.  Not only does Carl get a promotion, after giving a homeless man a lift in which his car runs out of gas, he winds up walking to the nearest gas station where he meets and falls for Alison (Zooey Deschanel) a pretty, wide eyed free spirited photographer and lead singer in a band who opens up Carl’s world to new and spontaneous fun experiences. Their romantic connection hits a snag when Alison has doubts that her Yes Man might have said yes to their relationship for the wrong reasons and not because it was in his heart.

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It’s been a while since Jim Carrey had a hit film.  His last two (The Number 23 and Fun With Dick and Jane) did not fare too well at the box office. No question, he could really use a hit and this vehicle, in which he returns to comedy rather than drama, could get him back on track.  At the age of 46 Carrey seems to have toned down some of that manic, rubber faced off the wall shtick without losing any of his comic appeal. Some crazy antics are par for the course, but in Yes Man, they are delivered in more agreeable doses. Carrey gives an effective, funny, and heartfelt performance, but he can’t get all the credit for this likeable film.

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Carrey gets great help from a supporting cast that are all excellent. Zooey Daschanel is quirky but charming, as Carl’s offbeat love interest, which is a far cry from her deer in the headlights performance in this year’s disastrous The Happening. Although there is an 18 year age difference between the two co-stars, they have an oddball chemistry that somehow works.  Rhys Darby (looking like a cross between Michael Caine and Austin Powers) is hilarious and steals every scene as Norman, his nerdy but lovable boss from Down Under (either Australia or New Zealand). And the always great Terrance Stamp pulls it off with perfection as the Yes seminar leader.

Having first seen the trailers, I wasn’t expecting much, but after watching the film, I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes Man is a satisfying, feel good comedy with a life affirming message about the benefits of having a positive attitude wrapped around a cute little love story with enough laugh out loud moments.  In these trying times, aren’t upbeat movies like this just what we need?  Yes, ma’am!

Feedback is welcome.