Posted: 12/28/2008



by Neal Fischer

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by Neal Fischer

The film YES MAN is credited with being based on the memoir of the same name by writer Danny Wallace. The basic concept of the film is about a man who says ‘no’ to life. Jim Carrey plays Carl Allen, a man who is recently single and has been working the same boring job for years on end. He doesn’t embrace anything new and exciting and the result of this is him saying ‘no’ to everything. His best friends played by Bradley Cooper (Alias, Wedding Crashers) and Danny Masterson (That 70’s Show) begin to resent Carl because he never wants to go out. After dealing with the way Carl is acting, his friends decide to not try anymore, and to just give up on Carl. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance (John Michael Higgins) thrusts Carl into a self-help seminar with the covenant of saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity that is thrown his way. Carl reluctantly agrees and from that point on his life changes completely. Many good things come from saying ‘yes’ to everything. Of course, the old saying rings true, “Sometimes things are just too good to be true”.

First and foremost, let’s talk about Jim Carrey. Some people love him and some people hate him. One thing you can’t argue is that he is an artist. For an actor to completely immerse himself into roles such as “The Grinch” and “The Mask”, and then turn to full on drama in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Man on the Moon is pretty impressive. Known as the actor with the rubber face, Jim Carrey has proven he can do anything he puts his mind to. Does this mean that every film he is in is a good film? No it doesn’t. Do I think YES MAN is a good film? I think it is a decent film, with lots of laughs. Do I think YES MAN is a good Jim Carrey film? Absolutely. What I am trying to say here, is that fans of Jim Carrey are going to get everything they want in this film. People, who are just going into the movie looking for something inspiring, or for a laugh, will get most of what they want. It is not a perfect film by any means.

What makes this film such a strong comedy is the wonderful supporting cast. Most notably for me is actor Rhys Darby. He is most famous in the states for his role of Murray on Flight of the Conchords. He is also a very funny stand up comedian. I believe he adds a smarter, wittier type of humor that balances well with Jim Carrey’s physical humor. Along with Darby, the performance by actress Zooey Deschanel is also one I enjoyed quite a bit. I have noticed in a lot of comedy films with a male star that the female lead is just there to tell the audience when it’s ok to laugh. Deschanel however, took what was an underwritten female character and brought to life a unique individual that the audience could believe was real. The chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel was believable and enjoyable to watch. Supporting turns by Christopher Guest vet John Michael Higgins, Bradley Cooper and the always great Terence Stamp really brought something to an otherwise generic comedy. I am so glad Jim Carrey redeemed himself after the disaster that was Fun with Dick and Jane. As a Carrey fan, it was hard for me to dismiss a few of his films, but this film reminded me of Liar Liar which is one of my favorite Carrey films.

Even if you don’t like this film, or don’t laugh at all (seriously see a doctor about that), at least you will start a debate with friends about trying to say ‘Yes’ to everything. It would be an interesting experiment I think all of us should try for at least a week. Just remember that the whole covenant is about being ‘open’ to saying yes, and you don’t necessarily have to agree to everything. Otherwise, you would be getting into too much trouble.

Neal Fischer is an independent film critic and filmmaker in Chicago.

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