Monday, January 5, 2009

Movie Review: Yes Man...just say "maybe"

Question: When do you know a movie star is beginning to feel like he or she is fading a bit, slipping from the limelight?

Answer: When they start making movies highlighting what made them successful 10, 20, or even 30 years before.

We've seen evidence of this syndrome recently. "Rambo", "Rocky Balboa", and "Live Free or Die Hard", anyone? I think the only thing keeping Arnold Schwarzenegger from making "Predator 3" to reinvigorate his action hero cred is a $41 billion deficit in California.

Now we have Jim Carrey's "Yes Man," an amusing trifle that might have been funnier 10 or 12 years ago before the seemingly plastic funnyman began showing his age. Carrey plays Carl Allen, a loan officer at a bank who has shown no zest for life since his wife left him three years before because, well, he showed no zest for life. Now, his days are filled with saying "no" -- no to loans, no to the seemingly kindly elderly neighbor in need of company, no to his friends when asked to go out or participate in wedding preparations, etc. Into Carl's life comes (briefly) an old friend who drags Carl to a self-empowerment seminar focused on saying "yes" to life.

As happens in these movies, the comic conceit is that Carl takes it too far, becoming convinced that he has to say yes to anything and everything (don't worry, I'm not about to give away anything that isn't in the trailers) --, guitar and Korean language lessons, getting up close and personal with that kindly old woman, attending Harry Potter and "300" costume parties given by his goofy boss, riding on scooters with Zooey Deschanel who is here playing her patented "quirky cute girl", etc. -- all of which lead to a series of amusing encounters that reinvigorate Carl's life and his view of the world.

To do so, however, Carrey goes back to many of the same tricks that he relied on in staples like the Ace Ventura movies, "Dumb and Dumber", "Liar Liar", and even the more recent Bruce Almighty. The one change is that "Yes Man" is a perfectly respectable romantic comedy...definitely more so than Bruce Almighty where Jennifer Aniston's role is largely defined by her sexual "manipulation" by the Almighty Bruce. The result is that "Yes Man" is a movie with amusing gags, Zooey Deschanel singing (always a treat -- listen to the "She & Him: Volume One" CD if you don't believe me), a few minor surprises, and some worthwhile chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel.

Driving home after the movie, there were very few scenes that stood out or were even relatively memorable. Instead, it was ephemeral, a mildly satisfying "yeah, it was entertaining, wasn't it" sort of feeling. Would I recommend it if you're looking for some light, unchallenging entertainment? Yes, I guess.

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