Of all the quirky character traits a movie's protagonist could have, an inability to say the word "no" has a surprising amount of potential. Unfortunately, Yes Man's team of young writers took the concept far too literally; the awkwardly meandering story makes it clear they were saying "yes" to just about any idea that popped up in their writing sessions. As I haven't read the book on which it's based, which details the real-life experiment of Scottish humorist Danny Wallace, I can't say with any authority that parts of it are completely made up.
But if the idea was to make an inspiring movie about living life out loud and seeking new experiences, ridiculously juvenile scenes (portraying oral sex from an elderly neighbor, for example) greatly reduce any chance that Yes Man can be seen for anything other than what it is: a completely predictable, ultimately disappointing romantic comedy. Clearly playing off of Liar Liar, the set-up also reminded me of Shallow Hal, which yes, also has plenty of immaturity to spare (it is a Farrelly Brothers movie), but leaves you with a more meaningful lesson, if not a lot more humor, than Yes Man.
Jim Carrey's career is in need of a good boost, but as perfect as he is for this part, the spotlight primarily shines on Rhys Darby, who doesn't stray much from his character on HBO's "Flight of the Conchords", and Zooey Deschanel, the underachieving actress who unknowingly almost killed her career last summer in The Happening. Together along with Bradley Cooper (an experienced actor known mostly from Wedding Crashers) and Terence Stamp (who plays a conscientious S.S. officer next week in Valkyrie), the cast ambles its way through repetitive gags and a disappointingly bland storyline.
The major laughs come from the minor situations - a Harry Potter-themed party, a mail-order bride fiasco, Korean language lessons (Carrey actually learned some Korean for the part). This is the good stuff, but it's still overshadowed by one too many sight gags, as if to prove Carrey can still do slapstick comedy as he inches toward age 50. Why not make use of his dramatic talent and add a little heart and soul to the character? And here's another thing: at one point his character clearly says "No" (in denying that he's a terrorist). Is this an egregious error in the story, or is there something I missed about the rules of the game? If so, forgive me for losing focus - and interest - as the movie progressed.
I'm not exactly sure why Yes Man is being rolled out during the Christmas season, where it's likely to get lost in the shuffle of the award contenders. Why not position it for a strong March or April release, where it clearly belongs? Maybe the story has come to life and the studio is saying "yes" to a risky marketing campaign. Or maybe I'm wrong and the movie will strike gold during this gloomy economic period. Either way, can you wait to see it on DVD or during its inevitable repeated play on TBS? Yes, man.
Writing - 7
Acting - 9
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 8
Music - 5
Social Significance - 3
Total: 39/50= 78% = C+