Yes Man

(2008) ** 1/2 Pg-13
105 min. Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution. Director: Peyton Reed. Cast: Jim Carrey, Rhys Darby, Bradley Cooper, Zooey Deschanel, Sasha Alexander.

/content/films/3390/1.jpgJim Carrey returns to tried-and-true territory with Yes Man, a sorta high-concept comedy built around his star presence. Carrey plays Carl Allen, an antisocial loan officer who habitually says no to life’s invitations and opportunities. Still smarting from being dumped by his ex Stephanie (Mollie Sims) and passed over for promotion after five years at Brea Federal Savings and Loan, Carl rents videos, mopes, and dodges his friends' phone calls. Says one: "You don't change your life, you're going to end up a lonely guy."

In a moment of weakness, Carl decides to check out a motivational seminar with the motto “Yes is the new No!” Guru Terrence Bundley (a highly amusing Terence Stamp) sets Carl’s life on a new path that requires him to say “Yes” to every question and offer, from street beggars to spam emails. Hilarity ensues as Carl gets involved in all sorts of random shenanigans, Carrey-style. Carl submits to the pop-up commands of "," takes guitar lessons and then saves a suicide jumper (Luis Guzman) by playing and singing the Third Eye Blind song "Jumper" (don't try this at home). "Yes" unleashes Carrey's trademark manic energy, further amped up when Carl shotguns Red Bull.

In his new life, Carl also promptly meets Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a free-spirited rocker (in a band called Munchausen by Proxy) who also teaches a "jogging photo group" that meets at dawn. Allison gives Carl a scooter ride and a spontaneous kiss, and they're off to the races. The only problem is she doesn't know that every time he says, "Yes," he doesn't necessarily mean it. Carl's friends—Rooney (Danny Masterson) and Pete (Bradley Cooper), who's getting married—are delighted to learn of and take advantage of Carl's forced positivity.

John Michael Higgins turns up as the wacky, blissed-out old acquaintance of Carl's that turns him on to the cult ("Fine? I wipe my ass with fine!...Live your life! You won't regret it!"). And poor Fionnula Flanagan submits to humiliation as Carl's elderly, oversexed neighbor Tillie. But the funniest moments come from Stamp (getting into Carrey's personal space with a phallic microphone) and Rhys Darby of Flight of the Concords. Darby threatens to upstage Carrey as Carl's nerdy boss Norman, who really wants to be friends and hosts lame theme shindigs like a Harry Potter costume party.

It all adds up to an enjoyable enough feel-good fantasy, mildly funny and blandly commercial as directed by Peyton Reed (who showed more panache in Down with Love). All the wacky-comedy cliches and romantic cliches are here, like the lovers having a landmark setting all to themselves (here, by breaking into the Hollywood Bowl by night). The cleverest idea, no doubt derived from Wallace, is the couple hopping the next flight out of airport, wherever it may be heading. But when they run afoul of the authorities and must be saved by Pete, he suggests of the "yes" strategy, "There is a middle ground here." Yeah, it's called "Maybe."

Writers Nicholas Stoller (who directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogul (working from Danny Wallace's non-fiction book) pay lip service to the dark side of "yes," but don’t do enough to explore what could have made the film more than a bouncy entertainment. The ultimate message is a good, if obvious, one: be open to growth without being a tool.

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Aspect ratios: 2.4:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 4/7/2009

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner brings Yes Man to Blu-ray in a nifty little special edition. The image is as clean and tight as one would expect of a new release, though orange-y flesh tones occasionally betray that the color scheme may be a bit off. On the whole, its a bright and pleasing picture, and the Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options serve this comedy exceedingly well.

A number of bonus features, some of them Blu-ray exclusive, supplement the feature. "Down Time on the Set of Yes Man" (3:59, HD) highlights Jim Carrey's off-screen clowning, a morale boost during the long hours of production. Carrey and director Peyton Reed comment.

"Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man" (11:52, HD) details the shooting of the attack dog scene, the rollerblading suit sequence, the Ducati scene, the bungee-jump scene,  Carrey, Reed, "Rollerman" Jean-Yves Blondeau, Zooey Deschanel, and stunt player Ernest Vigil

In the Blu-ray exclusive "On Set with Danny Wallace: The Original Yes Man" (8:32, HD) follows Wallace around the set as he does semi-amusing staged bits with Rhys Darby, Bradley Cooper, executive producer Marty Ewing, Carrey, and Reed.

"Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy" (5:28, HD) is a mockumentary profile of Allison's band, hosted by "Graham Summerset."

Also a Blu-ray exclusive, "Say 'Yes' to Red Bull!" (2:06, HD) allows Reed, Carrey, and producer David Heyman to explain what happens when Carrey drinks a Red Bull; it's also illustrated with behind-the-scenes footage. Yet another Blu exclusive is "Yes Man: Party Central with Norman Stokes (Rhys Darby)" (2:16, HD), with "Norman" taking us around his apartment.

Five "Exclusive Munchausen by Proxy Music Videos" (14:33 with "Play All" option, HD) showcase Deschanel and the band Von Iva in their filmic guise as Munchausen by Proxy.

Lastly, we get eight "Additional Scenes" (7:31, HD), including an alternate ending, and the highly amusing "Gag Reel" (5:35, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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