Yes Man, Dir. Peyton Reed (2008)

This film from the director of decent mainstream comedies (Bring It On,  the brilliantly acerbic The Break-Up as well as the downright awful Down With Love) takes  it’s basic premise from Danny Wallace’s book of the same name. 

 It tells the true story of a  guy, Carl,  (in the book Danny himself) whose life has come to a standstill. He’s single, bored, increasingly isolated from his friends and unable to commit to anyone due to an extreme lack of motivation. So he decides to turn his life around and simply say yes more, to everything in fact. 

From here the film flagrently departs in the most blasphemous manner from the book. And anyone expecting to get a reflection of the charm, excitement, inciseveness of the original book and even just some of the damn funny episodes ( shrooms, Amsterdam and an imaginery puppy come to mind) will be sourly disappointed. Fans of Jim Carreyon the other hand will not.

Being as the film is basically ‘The Jim Carrey Show’, a chance for  him to show just how funny his rubber-faced antics really are (woe betide the thought that he was actually proving himself as a an actor of subtle powers in The Truman Show, Man On The Moon and the magnificent Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind ).  Thus we get to see Mr. Carrey bungee-jumping (an act he apparently insisted on doing himself not  that this saves the film in anyway), taking part in a Korean class (suggesting the Korean language is hilarious  in the most patronising Hollywoodish way). Riding a motocycle wearing only a hospital gown, and in the most contrived and artificial scene coaxing a man from suicide by singing to him with the help of ramdon passer-bys of course, having newly aquired guitar skills. 

 While these madcap, zany antics were reasonably funny in earlier films like Liar Liar, the act soon wears thin here.  The message of the book to think postively, open yourself up to new experiences and really enjoy living is thus abstracted and trivialised, overshadowed by Carrey’s need to act like he has a facial spasm.

However, there is something to be said of the supporting performers who can overcome the Carrey juggernaut. Zoey Daschenal invests her role as the kooky-by-numbers  (she runs a jogging/photography class; pure Hollywood invention) love interest with some depth and warmth.

Rhys Darby brings his Flight of  the Conchords Murray character to his role as Carl’s boss the nerdy and desperate-to-be-hip Norman and also steals his scenes with Carrey with some of the funniest lines (After his boss ignores  him: “wanted to fist you there, didn’t quite get it”).

While Terence Stamp manages to also upstage Carrey and have some fun as the lifestyle guru Terence that inspires Carl (in the book it was a man on a bus but clealy that just wasn’t satiric or exciting enough), a role that was clearly tailor-made. And he  exudes gravitas a nd a sense of authority whilst dead panning  lines such as: “Sometimes your filled with such ennui, you can’t even summon the energy to masturbate”  and casually hitting Carrey on the head with his mic when he dares to say no.

But really Carrey should know better by now.

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1 Comment

  1. Yet to see this film, but this review confirms all the suspicions I had when I heard Danny had a Hollywood offer. The book wasn’t perfect, but the ideals which the reader was encouraged to believe in, of losing the fear of the unknown and gaining seize the day attitude, were the one legacy of the story. Poor Danny must be rather upset about the bastardisation of his creation.

    Perhaps this is indicative of the gap between British and American views – no, not in the ‘stupid’ sense, but in that we Brits feel that it’s a real departure to assume this kind of ‘yes’ attitude. Maybe the American way is more programmed positively, and thus makes the message of the book imperceptible. Or maybe it’s just Hollywood screenwriters going for cheap laughs, a quick buck and better internet-clip potential. I’m British, so I believe the latter 😉


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