There was a time when Jim Carrey had the box-office clout to make solo vehicles like Liar, Liar and Bruce Almighty box-office behemoths. But times and comedic tastes have changed (hello Judd Apatow), and because of that Carrey's Yes Man feels about a decade past its expiration date. The rubber-faced funnyman stars as Carl, a depressed junior loan officer who has shut himself off from the world ever since his divorce. He lies to his few remaining friends so he can avoid seeing them, and never answers his cell phone. All of this starts to change when Carl bumps into an old acquaintance (John Michael Higgins) who, after correctly sizing up Carl's lackluster existence, shoves an invitation to a Yes Man seminar in his hand. Although Carl doesn't give much thought to it at first, he attends the event after missing his best friend's engagement party -- and being warned by that friend that if he keeps living this way he will end up alone. At the seminar, Yes Man's leader, Terrence (Terence Stamp), explains that to feel alive one must say "yes" to every opportunity. Once he begins this new approach to living, Carl finds success at work, gets a new girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel), and earns some self-respect.
As directed by Peyton Reed, Yes Man has a very flat approach. There is a welcome low-key quality that gives the film some plausibility, but plausibility isn't really what anyone wants from a Jim Carrey comedy. Sure, he gets a handful of scenes where he can engage in the kind of manic silliness that made him a star, but there isn't any fizz in his performance -- he seems far more interested in the lessons about opening yourself up to life than he is in talking out of his butt. And while that shows a welcome desire to grow as an artist, he's stuck in a movie that hasn't found an engaging way to make that moral stick with an audience. Like Mike Myers with The Love Guru, Carrey can't mesh his philosophical musings with his particular comedic style. The outlandish comedic set pieces don't produce laughs, and they also cancel out the attempts to make the lead character a believable person -- something that would have driven home the movie's message. Yes Man isn't without a few simple charms, but it ends up being about as funny, profound, and memorable as the average bumper sticker. leave a comment --Perry Seibert