Sunday, 1 April 2012

Film Review | Yes Man (2008)

The main pitfall of high concept cinema is that if the film relies solely on the high concept at its core, without paying enough attention to all the other things a film needs to succeed, then things can quickly become unfocused and ultimately not that interesting. Case in point: Yes Man.

When we first meet Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) his life is filled with negativity, avoided opportunities and general malaise. After receiving an invitation to a seminar by motivational speaker Terrence Bundy (Terence Stamp) in which the participants are compelled to say "yes" to everything, Carl begins following the advice and his life starts to turn around.

The concept is a simple one, and at times effective, providing plenty of opportunities for Carrey to demonstrate that even though the '90s are far behind us, he can still pratfall and gurn to an impressive degree. The problem comes when the film has no idea of where to go with it. Carl's exploits quickly become disjointedly episodic, with the film haphazardly moving from one opportunity he has embraced to the next with next to nothing connecting them. One minute Carl is helping organise a bridal shower for the fiancée (Sasha Alexander) of his best friend Pete (Bradley Cooper), the next he's singing to convince a suicidal man not to jump off a building. It all becomes far too desultory with no real plot behind it.

What plot there is revolves around Carl's relationship with Allison (Zooey Deschanel), their initial meetings coming about because of Carl's compulsion to respond positively to each new opportunity. Things start off well (if you're willing to ignore the fact that Carrey and Deschanel are exactly eighteen years apart in age) as the two have some chemistry, if not exactly stretching themselves from character types they've played many times before. Things become painfully predictable, however, after a clunky and ill-fitting twist at the end of the second act, setting up for a hackneyed rom-com finale.

With Carrey and Deschanel's characters the only ones receiving anything close to development, the rest of the cast fade into bland oblivion, save for Carl's colleague Norm (Rhys Darby) whose Harry Potter themed fancy dress party (which, of course Carl, must say yes to) is one of the film's relative highlights.

Considering Yes Man is actually based on a real life experiment carried out and documented by Danny Wallace (friend of Dave Gorman), the film's biggest failing is perhaps that nothing presented here feels anything close to authentic. What we're left with is amusing but flawed and ultimately unsatisfying. Yes Man isn't awful, but given the opportunity, I wouldn't say "yes" to it again.


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