Yes Man

Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by:Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel
Starring: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Terence Stamp
Released: January 1, 2009
Grade: C+

When your mobile phone rings and the display says "caller unknown", do you answer it? That is the first dilemma that we see Carl Allen (Carrey) face in Yes Man. He chooses to reject the call and puts the phone back in his pocket. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone – friends or otherwise. He’d rather rent a movie from the video store and watch it alone at home.

You’ll quickly learn that Carl’s answer to everything is "no". When a friend asks him out for drinks to celebrate an important event, he says no. When his boss asks him to a fancy dress social club function, he says no. When a guy on the street tries to hand him a flyer for an upcoming music event, he definitely says no. Considering his disposition, Carl has an ideal job. He works at a bank and assesses loan application. Suffice to say that this is one bank that won’t have had any problems with the recent "sub prime" loan crisis. Carl rejects almost everything.

He wasn’t always this way. His negative attitude evolved after his wife left him a few years ago. She has since moved on and found a new man. His world will soon change when he meets an old work colleague and is given a pamphlet to a self-help seminar. The key speaker is Terrence Bundley (Stamp) and he preaches the importance of living life and saying "yes" to all new things. Carl is naturally sceptical but after Terrence singles him out for attention, he decides to take a risk and try it out.

His actions are transferred into instant success. He learns to speak Korean, he learns to play the guitar and most importantly, he meets a new girl. Her name is Allison (Deschanel) and she leads a peculiar group of people who go jogging and take photos at the same time. It’s all come together for Carl but he will soon learn that it’s impossible to say "yes" to everything and choices will have to be made…

I like the premise for this film. It is based on the biography written by Englishman Danny Wallace in 2005. It left me thinking about my own life and whether saying "yes", when I would have otherwise said "no", could have left me with more interesting memories and experiences. It’s a topic worth debating. If everyone took a piece out of Carl’s book, would the world be a more exciting place?

Unfortunately, this cinematic adaptation of Wallace’s novel is let down by a weak screenplay and a mediocre performance from Jim Carrey. The script seems to get worse as the film progresses. It officially loses the plot during a scene where Carl is arrested on suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities. Surely this film could have been funny without having to resort to such absurd plot developments?

I was once a very big fan of Jim Carrey thanks to his performances in films such as Man On The Moon and The Truman Show. He’s just going through the motions here with his stock-standard facial expressions and incomprehensible words. We’ve seen all this from him before. Some will notice the parallels with Liar Liar which was also about a guy who did the opposite (speak the truth) as opposed to doing what he wanted to do (lie).

There are a handful of funny sequences and I’m sure the film will be a smash hit at the box-office thanks to the lure of Jim Carrey and a strong marketing campaign. Best of luck with it.