Monday, May 4, 2009


Yes Man is a formulaic romantic comedy--but the formula, which is to turn Jim Carrey loose for all of the pratfalls and spasmodic creativity he's noted for--works splendidly in a script where just about anything goes.

Carrey is Carl Allen, a man mired in negativity. He's reeling from his recent divorce, and his career is going nowhere. He avoids socializing with his friends--he'd rather hang out at the video store.(I can identify with that!) Then he finds himself at a seminar run by a fanatical guru named Terrence (Terence Stamp) who exhorts his followers to say YES to every possibility. Carl drinks the Kool-Aid, and his personality is transformed.

This is where the laughs get rolling.

Because he can't say no, Carl gives a ride to a homeless guy. (I won't reveal what happens, but it's one of the quirky/funnier scenes in the movie.) Carl ends up out of gas and stranded. We'd all view that as being a bummer, but that's when he meets Allison, (Zooey Deschanel) a free-spirit who writes off-beat lyrics and sings with a band. On Allison's motorbike, the two of them embark on a series of adventures and misadventures that will test the limits of Carl's new philosophy and his fledgling romance with Allison.

Deschanel is right for this part--she's just so darn wholesome looking and cute that I am hereby declaring that ZOOEY DESCHANEL IS THE NEW MEG RYAN! (The OLD Meg Ryan still has plenty left in the tank, but she'll have to be replaced eventually.)

There are some interesting philosophical issues in play here. In line with Buddhist thinking is the idea that what may initially be interpreted as an unfortunate occurrence may, in time, turn out to be just the opposite. And something we're going ape-shit with ecstacy over (like Tom Cruise on Oprah's couch) might come back to bite us on the butt, because all of the future ramifications have yet to be revealed.

Brainwashing of any sort--whether it stems from religious dogma or military-style indoctrination that induces one to follow orders blindly and disregard one's own moral or ethical compass--denies the existential responsibility of making up your own mind in compliance with that little thing called your conscience. Saying yes to everything would undoubtedly open up a whole new world of possibilities--but, as Carl soon learns, it also exposes him to those who would take unfair advantage.

Who woulda thunk that a Jim Carrey movie would be this deep?