Yes Man is far from a great movie, but it represents the first time that Jim Carrey has been likeable onscreen in years, following his last dismal attempt at comedy with 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane and last year’s terrible thriller The Number 23. As stuck-in-a-rut loan officer Carl Allen, who transforms his life via a self-help program that directs him to say yes to everything, Carrey actually looks like he’s having a good time, and his trademark spastic physical comedy only occasionally comes off as desperate.
Still pining away for the ex-wife who left him three years ago, Carl drifts aimlessly through his job, ignores his friends’ invitations to hang out and spends most of his time alone in his apartment, moping. A chance encounter with a former co-worker leads Carl to a seminar by a guru who practices the philosophy of yes, and who inspires Carl to start assenting to every request he’s presented with. Soon he’s helping homeless people, approving every loan application at the bank and, of course, conveniently meeting his free-spirited dream girl (Deschanel).
Based extremely loosely on a memoir by Danny Wallace, Yes Man is pure plot-by-numbers, right down to its absurdly unrealistic quirky love interest, third-act reversal of fortune and simplistic lessons about how to embrace living in the moment. But a safe, mainstream comedy is just what Carrey needs right now, and in scenes where he’s not trying too hard to be wacky, he’s genuine and appealing, if not laugh-out-loud funny. A number of supporting players actually get bigger laughs, especially Rhys Darby of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords as Carl’s nerdy, clueless boss; John Michael Higgins as the amped-up acquaintance who introduces Carl to saying yes; and Terence Stamp as the pompous guru behind the movement.
Director Reed moves things breezily along, although a few of the situations Carl gets himself into are a bit too contrived even for this highly artificial premise, and the convolutions in the last 20 minutes feel unnecessarily forced. Yes Man is slight and only mildly entertaining, but it could be just the thing to set Carrey back on the right path.