Thursday, September 17, 2009

Affirmative action

From the library shelves to my DVD player to my blog to your eyes.

Yes Man (2009)

Jim Carrey. The most polarizing name in entertainment! Most people either love him or hate him (for his movies, or his wife Jenny McCarthy’s wack-ass beliefs on child vaccination). Me, I’m more in the middle: I liked his early, hyper-energy roles in Ace Ventura (uno, not the terrible sequel), The Mask, and Liar, Liar. I even enjoyed his Method performance in Man on the Moon. The less said about How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the better. But he’s become a victim of his own success/excess.

Carrey’s pliable, rubber-like face is always in motion, and that can work against him, as it sometimes does in Yes Man. The movie was inspired by the memoir by Danny Wallace in which the stuck-in-a-rut in his work and personal life British humorist decided that for a year he would say “yes” to any request or opportunity that came his way, whether it was signing up for new credit cards he didn't need, going for a middle of the work week late night round of pints at the pub, learning more about male enhancement from unsolicited emails, attending a UFO devotees meeting, or getting a punch in the face (see pints at the pub).

The movie takes the general idea from Wallace’s book and some of the details and mixes it into a fictionalized story. Carrey plays Carl a put upon bank loan employee who is still smarting from his divorce, has an extremely needy and juvenile boss (Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby), and never goes out with his few friends (Bradley Cooper and Danny Masterson playing a little older non-70s Hyde). He attends one of those self-help seminars, where they yell at you all the time, like Tony Robbins. He agrees to making a "covenant” with the oddly cast Terrance Stamp as the guru and begins saying “yes” to any request made of him. Carl is soon taking flying lessons, learning to speak Korean, no longer avoiding his needy senior neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan), and taking up the guitar.

By opening himself up to new experiences, not all of them pleasant (see the scene with his elderly neighbor where she “thanks” him for putting up shelves), he quickly meets and falls for The Most Quirky Girl in the Universe, Allison (played by Zooey Deschanel, The Most Quirky Girl – and one of the Cutest - in Show Biz). Zooey was much more enjoyable in this movie than the last one I saw her in, the craptacular The Happening. Her quirkiness here, as a photo-jogger (you read that right, a jogger who takes photos) who also plays in a very strange all-girl L.A. band/performance art group, is totally believable. She also rides a cool scooter.

The concept is a winner (I read the book and loved it) but I don’t believe they needed a Movie Star to sell it, especially Mr. $25 Million Dollars a Movie. So of course the studio created a tangential pseudo-sequel/remake of Liar, Liar, this time about a man who can’t say no to anything.

To be fair Carrey restrains himself through much of the movie, but there are times when the old Carrey shows up, especially in scenes of physical humor, like when he throws himself on a car hood and springboards up off the ground in a half second (closer to 50 than he is to 30 and he can still do that physical stuff, it's amazing). I felt the concept was strong enough that it didn’t need, well to put it mildly, Carrey’s Plastic Man face and antics, toned down though they may have been. (Just off the top of my head, I think Jason Bateman might have been a better choice as Carl. Or perhaps Jason Segal.)

Being a Jim Carrey Big Hollywood Movie, the story soon loses its edge and becomes a standard rom com (will the perfect for each other couple overcome this obstacle and get back together? What do you think?), but it still has enough to recommend it in its theme of seizing new opportunities and challenges to enrich your life.

And maybe you’ll get to meet a loveably quirky Zooey Deschanel too.

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