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Non-Review Review: Yes Man

Yes Man is a fairly standard romantic comedy with an inventive (but one-note) high concept. It does, however, have an ace in the hole: Jim Carrey.

Keep Pottering on...

Of course, if you aren’t a fan of Carrey, this will hardly convince you. You either like him, or you don’t. He’s either an incredibly energetic screen presence who never devotes less than every ounce of kenetic energy into his performance, or he’s an irritating rubber-faced comedian with aspirations of a great dramatic career that he never quite commits to. I’ve always had a soft spot for him – I think he’s an incredibly underrated dramatic performer who really deserves an Oscar nomination. Or two. And there’s something charming about him even when he isn’t flexing the dramatic muscles.

The movie’s premise sees Carrey’s character making a “covenant” with himself to embrace life and to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity which presents itself. So he finds himself shuffling homeless people around Los Angeles, marrying women he meets on-line and learning Korean. It’s a vehicle for jokes – some of which work (god, I feel his “Red Bull” experience), some of which don’t (Harry Potter parties are not, despite what you may think, hilarious). There’s the typical underlying schmaltz moral about living life to the full and taking opportunities, but the movie avoids layouring it on too hard. There may be one-too-many montages to stereotypical pop music (and the original soundtrack isn’t exactly too hot), but the inclusion of Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” is just about enough to make up for it. It plays over the opening scene, for crying out loud!

However, the real star of the show is Carrey himself. There’s as much rubber face antics, slapstick and physical comedy as you might expect. His jokes – probably most ad-libbed – come quick and fast, and by the time you’ve realised that one has missed another three have hit. Sure, his dramatic chops are unfortunately not really exercised to the full – but man can that guy dance. Seriously, check out that long shot with the arcade dancing game. This isn’t his finest comedy work – he’s not quite as balls-to-the-wall as he was in earlier films – but he’s still one of the best at what he does.

Of course, the movie falls into conventional romantic comedy mode after the first third. He meets a girl – a young free spirit, played by the woman who may as well have ‘young free spirit’ as her middle name, Zoe Dreschnell – and they court. She is naturally the kinda girl he never would have ended up with. It’s all fun and games for the next third and then – without spoiling anything – a hurdle emerges. As with most romantic comedies, it’s a hurdle that any reasonably mature couple could overcome with a good hour or two of talking it out. This is inarguably the weakest element of the film, but I can’t help but feel a bit numb to it from the fact it happens in every romantic comedy ever.

As ever, Carrey surrounds himself with a bunch of talented actors and actresses. Zooey Dreschnell hasn’t really had the chance to show much range in her film roles to date, but she’s perfectly okay as a springboard for Carrey here. She also gets a chance to demonstrate her near-ridiculous levels of talent as a singer and performer. Terrence Stamp is Terrence Stamp in a position of authority – in other words, he’s got that down. He doesn’t have much to do in his role beyond hitting Carrey with a mike (it’s not exactly his supporting turn in Bowfinger – except maybe his “words that rhyme with ‘yes'” bit). And Bradley Cooper pops up in a pre-Hangover “best friend” role. Rhys Darby of Flight of the Conchords is good in the movie’s mandated “quirky supporting character” role. And there are small roles for Fionnula Flannigan and Luis Guzman. And Spencer Garrett steals a tiny role as an airport interrogator. “We knew another Karl we weren’t too fond of, now didn’t we, Tweed?” (It’s Marx.)

All in all, this isn’t a classic movie by any stretch. You’ll probably have forgotten it by the time you leave the sitting room. However, it does what it says on the tin, provides some laughs and gives us a strong leading performance from one of our generation’s most firmly established comedians. It veers a little too far into hackneyed cliche at points, and your capacity to enjoy the film will depend on how forgiving of standard comedic formula you can be. If you don’t mind a little freshly-assembled out-of-the-box IKEA-style romantic comedy, you really shouldn’t say ‘no’ to Yes Man.

4 Responses

  1. Yes, Carrey definitely deserved some recognition for The Truman Show and more specifically Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Outside of that, I do find him a bit grating in most of his other movies (especially on rewatch).

    Yes Man was an alright romantic comedy, nothing too memorable about it but pleasant enough. I can’t really much about it, I don’t remember most of the last half…

  2. I didn’t really laugh during this, except for one part I can’t really remember.

    • Always a good sign! Nah, I enjoyed it. Not a classic, not even a great film, but a little better-than average.

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