Yes Man
dir Peyton Reed
scr Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
with Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp, Rhys Darby, Fionnula Flanagan, John Michael Higgins, Aaron Takahashi, Vivian Bang, Sean O'Bryan, Jarrad Paul
release US 19.Dec.08, UK 26.Dec.08
08/US Warner 1h44
On an adventure: Deschanel and Carrey

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R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
yesman The central theme of this rather over-egged comedy is strong enough to keep us interested. Although the film itself is far too corny, and Jim Carrey hams it up shamelessly.

Carl (Carrey) is a grumpy loner on his way to alienating his best friends (Cooper and Masterson) when he attends a seminar by a self-help guru (Stamp) who challenges Carl to say "yes" to everything life throws at him. Sure enough, his dull life is soon upended as he befriends his nerdy boss (Darby) and elderly neighbour (Flanagan) and meets sparky performance artist Allison (Deschanel). But there are some things you should never say "yes" to.

The screenwriters clearly struggled to create a narrative from Danny Wallace's nonfiction book, resorting to a corny romantic comedy plot. The problem is that the central theme so strong that it makes the romance and slapstick look thin and contrived. We never believe it for a second, and not just because Carrey is 18 years older than Deschanel, a fact that's never mentioned but is eerily apparent. And it's not helped by Carrey's brazen overacting. For every gag he nails dead-on, another five are pushed too far. Even when he's lying asleep he's overdoing it.

The rest of the cast is more engaging, including the quirky-cute Deschanel, the reliably likeable Cooper, the goofy Masterson, hysterical scene-stealer Darby and Stamp in another role in which he perfectly nails the comedy by playing it dead straight. It also helps that director Reed has a light touch with the set pieces, keeping them relatively grounded and letting the story's strong themes emerge relatively organically.

And it's the message that makes this film worth seeing. The idea is that saying yes to opportunities and challenges will improve your life, rather than automatically saying no to protect yourself from discomfort and change. The character of Carl is actually a recognisable guy who has shut himself down following his divorce and has stopped living until he's jolted back to life. In this sense, even though the film as a whole doesn't work at all, it's still oddly inspirational. But that's just another way of saying, "Read Wallace's book instead."

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 9.Dec.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall