Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes Man / *** (PG-13)

Carl Allen: Jim Carrey
Allison: Zooey Deschanel
Peter: Bradley Cooper
Nick: John Michael Higgins
Norman: Rhys Darby
Rooney: Danny Masterson
Lucy: Sasha Alexander
Tillie: Fionnula Flanagan
Terrence Bundley: Terence Stamp

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Peyton Reed. Written by Nicholas Stoller and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel. Based on the book by Danny Wallace. Running time: 104 min. Rated PG-13 (for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity).

I’m not much of a conversationalist. Nor am I much of a drinker. However, if you get me drunk, you can’t shut me up. The first time I ever got drunk I was with my best friend since first grade. As the sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon that early morning, that friend leaned on my shoulder—getting too close in the way that drunk people do when their sense of personal space is just a little fuzzy—and said, “Dude, you were so damn funny tonight!” Now had the two of us or the other two friends we were with been sober on that long night of laughter, perhaps we wouldn’t have found ourselves so humorous. But we had a hell of a time that night.

Jim Carrey makes me think of spending a drunken night with a couple of really close friends—people who would laugh at things that no one else would understand. That’s what Jim Carrey’s antics are like. If you aren’t drunk with the same unadulterated verve for life as he is, he might come off like some obnoxious drunken stranger. But if you’re there on the same level with him, he’s the funniest inside joke you ever had on a drunken binge with your best friends.

In “Yes Man” Carrey is once again given free reign to bump and bound off the wall with his particular brand of absurd physical humor in a premise that seems designed only for that specific purpose. Carrey is Carl Allen, a man still suffering from a three-year-old break up. In that time he has become reclusive and unwilling to wrench himself from the rut of non-commitment his life has fallen into. He doesn’t go out with friends. He has the same dead end job. He ignores every call he receives on his cell phone. The most social activity he has in his life is wandering the new release aisle of his local video store. Hasn’t he heard of Netflix?

Carl runs into an old friend (John Michael Higgins, “Fred Claus”) who can see he’s in a bad place and talks him into attending a self-help seminar. At the seminar, guru Terrence (Terence Stamp, “Wanted”) makes a covenant with Carl the he must say “Yes” to any request he is confronted with. Soon Carl is ordering a wife over the internet, taking guitar and flying lessons, learning to speak Korean, and agreeing to any crazy thing that a world full of strange people can come up with.

This is Carrey’s movie from credits to credits. Almost all the other performers are just there as props and set dressing for Carrey’s antics. His two best friends, Peter (Bradley Cooper, “Midnight Meat Train”) and Rooney (Danny Masterson, “The ‘70’s Show”), are ever present. Peter’s impending marriage has a little to do with Carl’s decision to attend the seminar, but mostly they only exist to react to his seemingly insane actions or to place him within insane situations.

Even Carrey’s love interest has no real story arch of her own; but as played by Zooey Deschanel (“Elf”), Allison is that sort of free spirit—which only exist in Hollywood screenplays—that anyone could fall in love with. The two Meet Cute after Carl performs his first act of Yeshood by giving a homeless person a ride to a remote park at night. What at first looks to be a perfect debunking example against the power of “Yes,” turns into the primary reason Carl decides to ascribe to the covenant. Allison is the best thing to happen to him since his ex left him, and because his first “yes” lead directly to meeting her, he becomes a true believer.

Director Peyton Reed continues his streak of producing romantic comedies that are more interested in turning out laughs than true insight into the natures of men and women. But after his last outing—2006’s “The Break Up”—it’s nice to see a relationship of positives versus the one of negatives presented in that movie.

It’s a shame screenwriters Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, and Andrew Mogel felt the need to conform with Hollywood standards by providing a false crisis at the end of the movie that puts the lovers in jeopardy through their own ignorance. But the relationship, like everything else beyond Carrey himself, is really just background here. The only reason to see this movie is to see Carrey doing what he does best—freaking out in ways the rest of us only can imagine when we’re drunk. But if you think Carrey is the type of happy drunk you’d find funny rather than obnoxious, then you probably will like to hanging out with him in this movie.

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