Yes Man: Romantic comedy. Starring Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel. Directed by Peyton Reed. (PG-13. 104 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)
Jim Carrey's back with his physical, crazy-guy
shtick - though it's more creepy at 46 than it was in the 1990s - as a
guy who has to say yes to everything in "Yes Man."
Jim Carrey has reached an uncomfortable point in his career: He has gotten too old to act that way. You know, that way. That weird Jim Carrey way.
Like Jerry Lewis, who got too old to squeal "Dean" like a
6-year-old, Carrey has reached the point where his familiar eye-popping,
crazy-smiling shtick no longer seems anarchic, just creepy; no longer
cute, just creepy; and no longer funny, just creepy. Like Lewis, Carrey
is bound to make an adjustment soon. He's too talented to go away. But
one thing is clear: What he's doing in "Yes Man" is no strategy for the
"Yes Man" is the kind of career move a performer makes in lieu of
actually making a career move. It's an attempt to hover in place. In
"Liar, Liar," he played a man who could not stop telling the truth. "Yes
Man" stays close to formula: He's a guy who goes to a life-improvement
seminar and resolves to say yes to life - to say yes to any request
that's made of him.
So if a homeless man asks him for a ride, he has to say yes. If the
same homeless man asks him for all his money, he has to say yes. If an
Internet advertisement asks him if he wants to join a Persian dating
service, etc., etc., everything's yes, yes, yes. The fun is supposed to
be in watching Carrey squirm with discomfort, but that turns out not to
be much fun. Surprisingly, the movie provides no escalating series of
comic disasters resulting from each yes. The comedy, to the extent there
is any, consists mainly of Carrey's verbal asides and strained
reactions to people. The script gives him very little to work with.
It does give him an attractive and engaging leading lady in Zooey
Deschanel, who is quirky in her own right, but once again the script
doesn't come through. It's just a generic girl role, with a few
eccentric characteristics tacked on, but not in any way that affects the
character's speech or behavior. Really, all Deschanel gets to do is
look at Carrey and pretend to be charmed, as he makes unfunny jokes and
carries on like a middle-aged wacko.
Which brings us back to the age thing. The familiar Carrey routine
may have suited a young man, but he's 46 now, and standing next to the
28-year-old Deschanel, he looks every minute of it. Moreover, the movie
places his character, Carl, within a group of friends in which everyone
is no more than 35, implying that Carl is supposed to be in his early
30s. A 46-year-old man doesn't normally register as Methuselah, but
present him as though he were 32 and give him a 28-year-old girlfriend
(who looks 23), and things get awkward.
On top of that, have him act in a way that, in real life, would
probably scare women, not seduce them, and a funny (as in strange) thing
starts to happen in the audience: Arm hair stands up. Skin tingles and
crawls. People sink into their seats. They feel their facial muscles
tightening. They are wincing. Wincing and cringing.
However, there is one genuinely funny performance in "Yes Man"
worthy of note - not Carrey's, but that of Rhys Darby, who plays Carl's
openhearted, incredibly geeky, Harry Potter-loving boss. As sometimes
happens with actors who are especially vivid, I thought for sure I'd
seen Darby before, but "Yes Man" marks Darby's feature debut.
From there on, it's all uphill. -- Advisory: This film contains adult humor and the sight of Carrey's posterior peeking through a hospital gown.