A- Sound A Extras D
starring Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Terence Stamp
screenplay by Nicholas Stoller and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel, based on the novel by Danny Wallace
directed by Peyton Reed
by Walter Chaw I look at Jim Carrey nowadays with a little bit of bittersweetness, in that his attempts to go "legit" in movies like Man on the Moon and especially Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were essentially swatted aside, dismissed as brief indulgences between talking-asshole gigs. I believe that Carrey is a serious guy, possibly a melancholy guy, certainly a smart guy--and I believe the closest anyone's come to finding the right vehicle for his elasticity is Charlie Kaufman. Maybe they'll work together again. Until then, Carrey's fate is to shoehorn into endlessly reducible slapstick romcoms like Peyton Reed's Yes Man--easy cash-grabs with an ephemeral shelf-life doomed to be referenced for its one or two scenes that make any impact before becoming ancient history. The formula for this shit is etched in tintype by now: the Lovesick Dork Protag is Carl (Carrey), the High Concept is that he pathologically rejects everything, and the object of his l'amour fou is avant-garde punk band frontwoman Allison (Zooey Deschanel™). Can this button-up, white-collar stiff (Carl's a loan officer) learn to embrace spontaneity and break free of the workaday while setting up his own quirky business and saving the world in the process? Yes, man.
It starts when Carl attends a self-help lecture led by guru Bundley (Terence Stamp), who preaches a life lived in the affirmative: Say "yes" to every opportunity, from guitar lessons to the decrepit landlady's offer of a blowjob as payment for fixing a shelf. Who would have thought this would lead to the acquisition of specific skills, thus enabling Carl to affect positive change in the lives of strangers and loved ones alike? Ain't life funny? Indeed--as funny as Yes Man isn't. (Already not funny, consider how less funny the film is in Bailout America, what with its reckless bank-loan subplot.) If you don't bail after a few minutes of tired, predictable, instantly-forgettable hijinks and forced sentiment, there're a few nice, improvised-feeling moments with "Flight of the Conchords"' "Murray," Rhys Darby, as well as a few numbers courtesy a fake-band, "Munchausen by Proxy," fronted by Deschanel and backed by San Francisco punk trio Von Iva, that sound fantastic. Alas, the lingering effect of both phenomena is not a favourable feeling about the movie but rather some faint hope that Darby has a future in film and that Munchausen by Proxy will go on tour.Yes Man is vanilla and middlebrow. You could call it an antidote to the Apatow gross-out scatological comedies, except that those tend towards socially conservative resolutions anyway and at least have the decency en route to be occasionally hilarious. You could wonder if there's something to the fact that Carrey, post Liar, Liar, is often saddled with characters forced into strictly-defined modes of behaviour--if helplessness isn't the basic element that defines Carrey as an artist. Of the signature characters in Carrey's career, I find myself thinking of his Joel in Eternal Sunshine, begging to be allowed to keep the memories he's paying to have erased; and of the signature moments in same, I find myself thinking the most of his post-coital urine spray in Me, Myself & Irene. That Carl is helpless to be anything but positive isn't amusing so much as it's just sort of sad in an extra-textual, Jim Carrey's-career sense. If you have to do a Red Bull product placement gag better-suited to Robin Williams, might as well have a good attitude about it on the way to the bank.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Warner Blu-Ray has an irritating habit of showing you a "you should buy one of these machines you're already watching this movie on" trailer prior to the main event, and the Yes Man BD doesn't disappoint in that respect. Regardless, the natural-looking 2.40:1, 1080p transfer of the movie proper is more than adequate in most ways, with skin tones sometimes tending towards orange but outdoor shots screaming with clarity and vibrancy. The darkest scenes fare the worst, though in this case "worst" is relative and means a bit more noise than I would've liked. A particular standout for not only its appearance but its sonics, too, the pivotal convention sequence boasts a remarkable amount of detail and persuasive acoustics, booming like the proverbial mofo in all six channels of the generally robust 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track.
Special features are presented in HD, starting with "Down Time on the Set" (4 mins.), which has Carrey acting like a clown. The piece segues into "Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man" (12 mins.), wherein we see Carrey doing his own stunts and again acting like a clown. Then there's "Exclusive! On Set with Danny Wallace" (9 mins.), in which Wallace, author of the novel on which Yes Man is based, walks around interviewing cast and crew and therefore captures Carrey, you guessed it, acting like a clown--which is also what the "Gag Reel" (6 mins.) and "Yes to Red Bull" (2 mins.) are all about. "Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy" (5 mins.) is a mock music program detailing the rise of the eponymous mock group via some Spinal Tap-style interviews with the principals. Better still, for the fan (like me), there's an option to watch the full Munchausen by Proxy performances excerpted in the film. "Party Central with Norman Stokes" (2 mins.) has Darby riffing on the stuff in his character's apartment and proving himself as nimble an improvisor as Carrey, while "Additional Scenes" (8 mins.) demonstrates that for as bad as the film is, Reed very wisely chose not to go down the tiresome road of Carl quitting his job and calling in old favours. A second disc in this slip-covered package offers the film as a digital download for portable devices and home PCs. A BD Live interface meanwhile allows one to download additional throwaway content, if one should so desire. Originally published: May 22, 2009.