Yes Man
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // $35.99 // April 7, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 5, 2009
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How's this for high concept? Yes Man
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yanks out fistfuls of pages from Liar, Liar and staples 'em onto the screenplay for a lifeless, aggressively generic romantic comedy. Hmmm. I could probably cut the review off right there.

Anyway, Carrey takes the reins as Carl, a schlub who's sleepwalking through what passes for a life. He'd only been married for six months but is still reeling from the divorce three full years later, blowing off old buddies (Danny Masterson and Bradley Cooper) and a dweeby Kiwi coworker (Conchord Rhys Darby) whenever they try to pal around with him. Carl kinda revels in his hermetically sealed lifestyle by chanting "no" to everything, so cue John Michael Higgins with the high concept plot device: nod "yes" to every offer that comes his way. The idea is that this'll open Carl up to opportunities he barely even knew existed. Taking flying lessons! Learning basic Korean! Saving lives! Ingenious banking concepts that send him scurrying way up the corporate ladder! Uh, Nebraska! Carl is about as bright-eyed and cheery as he's ever been thanks to "yes!", and he even stumbles upon a too-cute romance with Allison (Zooey Deschanel), the hyperimpulsive frontwoman from a synthpop throwback band called Munchausen by Proxy.

Up till that point, Yes Man is kind of like Mia laying comatose on that shag carpeting in Pulp Fiction; that first instant Zooey breezes in front of the camera jabs a syringe of adrenaline clean into its heart and sends it screaming back to life again. Zooey Deschanel is a lot like...oh, I dunno, caramel. Work with me here: drizzle caramel on anything -- ice cream, pie, chocolate, steak, whatever -- and it's inherently better than it was before. Ditto for Zooey, who casting agents the world over have had on speed dial whenever they need to fill a quirky love interest, quirky best friend, quirky neighbor, or...well, quirky anything, really. It's her left-of-the-dial charm that makes Yes Man at least worth a couple of clicks on Netflix. From the moment she first putters in on her scooter, there's hardly a scene in the movie without Zooey that really works, and if you aren't swooning when she steps on-stage -- flanked by a rack of keytars and a Moog Voyager (!!!), blindfolded, and draped in a fishnet -- then you have no soul. Carrey and Deschanel have an enormous amount of chemistry, and Yes Man is never sweeter, funnier, or more clever than when the two of them are paired together on-screen.

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that's why the flick has to split 'em apart. Yes Man sticks unwaveringly to the most generic romantic comedy formulas it can dig up. There's enough of a spark between Carrey and Deschanel to trump the "stuffy, bored guy who learns about life and love from a kooky, freewheeling gal" plot device, but there's no escaping the inevitable breakup. That's the way 88% of romantic comedies go: meet-cute, find some excuse to break those lovebirds up (and that feels really stilted and unnaturally stapled on here), throw in an ex who's just now starting to realize what she was missing out on, toss our hero a big, over-the-top romantic gesture to show how he really feels...blah. Yes Man feels so much more confident and assured when it's its own movie rather than one a battalion of other writers and directors have churned out however many hundreds of thousands of times before. Like too many other romantic comedies, Yes Man squanders its supporting cast, saddling 'em with either bland, underwritten parts or one-note "isn't this wacky and zany? Isn'titisn'titisn'tit?" running gags that don't get a laugh the first time, let alone the eighteenth. Only Terrence Stamp as a cacklingly over-the-top self-help guru has any spark to him.

That's another problem with Yes Man, really: it's not funny. The movie leans too heavily on Carrey's trademark slapstick that was stale a full decade ago, and it's too quick to settle for "oh, that's cute" or half-smirks in lieu of actual laughs. It doesn't help that its sense of humor is so lazy. Y'know, "hey, look at that guy's bare-ass!" Oh no! Jim Carrey's doing a 4th-grade drunk guy impression while fighting an overmuscular prick who towers over him! That Korean broad at the bridal whatever is speaking broken Engrish! I mean, this is a movie that thinks it's a good idea to pay off a scene with a suicidal Luis Guzman by strumming along to a twelve year old Third Eye Blind song or to be "edgy" by having a toothless seventysomething neighbor go downtown on Carl. (In a movie that otherwise is so cute and harmless, that really seems out of place.)

I really like Peyton Reed as a director, but the personality he brought to Down with Love, The Break-up, and...heck, even Bring It On and The Weird Al Show is missing in action here. For a flick whose triple-underlined message is to open yourself up to new possibilities and take chances, Yes Man is disappointingly routine.

Kinda like the movie itself, this Blu-ray disc of Yes Man is okay but pretty routine. The scope image is decently detailed, and even though its colors generally skew towards the blander, browner end of the palette, there's a fair amount of pop in some of the sunny exteriors along with the oversized "yes!" bit in the convention center. There really isn't anything at all I'd waggle my finger at and gripe about, but even if Yes Men doesn't disappoint in high-def, it never manages to impress all that much either. This is exactly what you'd stroll in expecting, really; fine -- and definitely a leg up on the DVD -- but never great.

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Ditto for Yes Man's 16-bit Dolby TrueHD track. It's a standard issue, straight off the shelf comedy mix: dialogue anchored front and center, pretty much every last sound effect rooted in the front mains, a marginal amount of color in the surrounds, and the subwoofer lurching to life to reinforce the score and a few scattered effects. Again, Terrence Stamp's seminar is the standout with waves of thundering bass rattling just about everything that's not nailed down and the chants of cultists attacking from every direction. Skeet shooting, thunder-'n-rain, and a pretty nasty car wreck also serve up plenty of tight, punchy bass, but Yes Man is content to let the dialogue carry the bulk of the flick, so it's kinda low-key otherwise. The music is definitely the best thing Yes Man's audio has going for it. Aside from the synthpop delirium of Munchausen by Proxy, the soundtrack is heavy on The Eels and even belts out They Might Be Giants' "Ana Ng" at a particularly dweeby house party. Oh, it makes the nerdy former-college-radio-DJ in me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That's some rockin' Journey too. Again, though, Yes Man really doesn't sound all that different than what you'd hop in expecting to hear, but that's okay. The mix never comes up short, even if there's nothing all that dazzling or memorable about it.

Warner continues its oddball habit of defaulting to a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix rather than belt out TrueHD up front. Other soundtracks are served up in French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and there's a descriptive narrative track too. Also included are subtitle streams in English (SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

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Yes Man veers away from stock making-of featurettes, opting instead to root its extras in quippy and quasi-candid stuff from the shoot. Oh! And everything on here, from top to bottom and back again, is in high-def.
  • Deleted Scenes (8 min.; HD): There really isn't much in the way of deleted scenes in the sense of...y'know, scenes; a lot of it's just a couple extra lines here and there to keep rolling with a riff or to set something up. The biggest addition is an extended epilogue that builds up to the bit that plays over Yes Man's end credits.

  • Gag Reel (6 min.; HD): Yes Man's gag reel is manic but really not all that funny, heavy on clowning around, blown lines, and Jim Carrey flinging himself around the set. I guess squirming around in a faux-fartin' booth in a bar and fumbling basic Korean does set it apart a bit from most of these things.

  • Munchausen by Proxy music videos (15 min.; HD): Calling 'em "music videos" is kinda misleading since these are really just uncut versions of the on-stage performances from the flick, but piled on here are Zooey Deschanel and Von Iva tearing through "Who Are You?", "Yes Man", "The Star Spangled Banner", "Sweet Ballad", and "Keystar".

  • Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy (5 min.; HD): This Behind the Music riff -- in character! -- chronicles the rise and fall of ZiggMunchausen by Proxy. Okay, not the fall so much, but their meteoric ascent...? Sure. There are shots of rehearsals, laying down tracks in the studio, and fragments of more interesting lookin' videos than what's piled on elsewhere on this Blu-ray disc.
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  • Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man (12 min.; HD): Jim Carrey nodded "yes" to doing as much of his own physical comedy and stunts as the beancounters would let him, and this featurette takes a peek at him squaring off against a frothing-at-the-mouth attack dog, flinging himself down a mountainous stretch of highway in a full-body rollerblade suit, screaming along downtown on one wheel on a Ducati, and leaping off a bridge.

  • Downtime on the Set of Yes Man with Jim Carrey (4 min.; HD): ...and as cacklingly psychotic as all of that might sound, there are long, long stretches of nothin' happening on a film set as the crew lugs around gear and meticulously sets up lights. "Downtime..." piles together a bunch of footage following Jim Carrey as he frits away the time between setups while keeping the energy on the set cranked up to 11.

  • Say "Yes" to Red Bull (2 min.; HD): ...and speaking of energy (wow! I'm getting pretty good with these segues, aren't I? Just politely nod yes), Carrey's supposed to riff on Red Bull after his character pulls an all-nighter, so he does the whole method acting thing and guzzles down a can of the stuff for one particularly spastic take.

  • Yes Man: Party Central with Norman Stokes (2 min.; HD): Do I really need all the extras to squeeze "Yes Man" into the title? It's not like I'm gonna forget what movie this is while I'm digging through this stuff. Anyway, this is Rhys Darby -- still in character -- showing off his space age bachelor pad.

  • On Set with Danny Wallace: The Original Yes Man (9 min.; HD): Hey, it's another tour! Danny Wallace, the writer-slash-comedian-slash-whatever behind the original British book that inspired this whole thing, pals around with the cast-and-crew on this guided tour. It's played pretty tongue-in-check, natch, including a peek at Wallace shooting his cameo and catching up with Carrey as he gives director Peyton Reed a trim.

A second disc in the set piles on a digital copy of Yes Man that's compatible with iTunes and Windows Media devices. The standard blue case slips comfortably into a glossy cardboard sleeve.

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The Final Word
Yes Man? No thanks. Rent It.

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