DVD Review: Yes Man (2008) -- 2-Disc Special Edition

Say Yes to Jim Carrey
On Blu-ray, DVD, & Video on Demand

Apple iTunes

View the Trailer & Photo Gallery

Given the previews and a lot of criticism-- not to mention the overwhelming sense of déjà vu one experiences seeing Jim Carrey back in zany Liar, Liar like form with his newest work Yes Man-- it was easy to assume that the film was conceived in a lazy Hollywood pitch meeting to recycle that phenomenally successful film Carrey made over a decade ago. In Yes Man, we find our negative homebody, sad sack hero Carl turn his life around by answering yes when presented by any possible opportunity.

As you probably remember in Liar, Liar, a birthday wish by his neglected mop-top adorable son makes Carrey's shady lawyer unable to lie over a single day in the course of the Brian Grazer produced, Tom Shadyac hit but no magic is involved in Yes Man as our hero decides to push existentialism out the door, abandoning free will, choice and avoiding bad karma by simply embracing everything he comes across.

About midway through the film, I started realizing that-- had Yes Man been crafted back in the 1960s-- it probably would have been directed by Blake Edwards for a star such as Jerry Lewis or Peter Sellers as the goofy one-gimmick premise is only as strong as the comedic direction by filmmaker Peyton Reed (The Break-Up, Bring it On, Down With Love) as well as the charisma of our lead performer.

And while IMDb reports that initially actor “Jack Black was originally considered for the lead role,” in a film that—if he had done it probably would’ve drawn comparisons to the new age karmic comedy Shallow Hal as opposed to Carrey’s Liar, Liar-- ultimately the interchangeable nature of all of the above is part of the problem. In other words, it just feels all too familiar and seems like it would have been ideal in the bygone era of truly silly “square” turns “hip” comedies like The Nutty Professor or I Love You, Alice B. Toklas.

And this is painfully apparent in its overwhelming sense of “did I already see this?”woes that hit audience members when you couple this with the old standby ingredients including: the presence of Jim Carrey who's done this kind of thing before; Terence Stamp essentially blending the “Mindhead” guru he played in Steve Martin’s thinly disguised lampoon of Scientology in Bowfinger as well as the over-the-top Oscar-nominated turn by real-life Scientologist Tom Cruise in Magnolia; Christopher Guest’s hilarious improvisational genius John Michael Higgins (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman); and the lovely Zooey Deschanel who’s quickly building a Goldie Hawn like career out of playing carefree, beguiling, yet decidedly contemporary hippie chicks.

However despite all of that, there is nothing familiar about the source material as—instead of as I’d joked watching the first preview—it appeared like it’d be a great idea for a short SNL skit or In Living Color gag back from the days of Carrey as Fire Marshal Bill, instead it was inspired by the autobiographical memoir penned by the Scottish-born humorist and television personality Danny Wallace. In his memoir, Wallace chronicled a full year of what the scribe referred to as his “yescapades,” which were spring-boarded after aremark made by a London bus passenger encouraged Wallace to “say yes more.”

Although Wallace explains in the film’s Warner Brothers production notes, that “it was probably just a casual remark,” instead of simply shrugging it off and returning to his life post-breakup sitting around and playing video games and “not really do[ing] anything,” Wallace decided “it was the best advice -- like every self-help book in the world distilled into three words.”

Charting his various adventures which included buying a car on a whim, flying to Singapore for the weekend, and taking in strange concept bands—it was ultimately Wallace’s “generosity of spirit that informs Danny and his work,” which made the author’s memoir earn an important ally in previous fan—film producer David Heyman (the Harry Potter franchise, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I am Legend) who also states that he’d already been intrigued by Wallace’s writing since his debut book Join Me.

Still admittedly appealed by Wallace’s “idea that if you say yes -- if you're open to the possibilities that life throws before you -- then great things will happen,” or as Wallace jokes, “you’re as likely to meet the love of your life at a bad party [or a] good one, but if you said no, you'll never know”—Heyman teamed up with veteran super producer Richard Zanuck (The Sting, Jaws]. Leaning towards the character-based comedy director Peyton Reed who tirelessly worked with the film’s trio of screenwriters including Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogul-- soon the seed of the endless possibilities of what could happen if you were inclined to embrace everything rather than run from it proved infectious to the cast and crew. In doing so, Peyton Reed strove to not only transfer “the very British memoir and soon American story set in Los Angeles,” but also attempt to create "a tone in the film which was somewhere between what Jim [Carrey] does comedically and in his more serious work.”

As the humdrum Carl, Carrey begins the film as though he's sleepwalking through life randomly grabbing any given DVD at Blockbuster to spend his evenings avoiding text messages, phone calls, and pleas to hang out with his soon to be married best friend (Alias’ Bradley Cooper). However, Carl is jolted into hyper new age reality after he finds his outlook changed when Higgins’ character forces “Yes Man” literature into the divorced loan officer’s hands and grudgingly brings him to a self-help seminar, led by Stamp’s character Terrence Bundley whom Stamp describes as a man who “is on what’s laughing called the guru circuit...[having] figured out a new angle where people will pay him to inspire them.”

Although he fights Stamp’s insistence that “yes is the new no,” soon he gives into the way of life. While it begins on a rocky note as Carl finds himself serving up a ride, money, and his cell phone to the world’s “most popular homeless guy” who uses up his car’s gas and phone’s battery, soon things start looking up in the newfound “yescapades,” when he meets the quirky, adorable, scooter riding Allison (Zooey Deschanel). Like most Deschanel characters, Allison listens to the beat of a drummer to which only she can hear-- spending her early mornings teaching aspiring photographers how to snap photos while jogging and her nights in a bizarre kitschy rock band Munchhausen by Proxy crooning songs with lyrics like “whore no more.”

Taking advantage of Deschanel’s natural ability as a singer/songwriter, the Yes Man DVD that also boasts a Digital Copy that’s compatible with both Windows Media and iTunes contains extras that focus exclusively on the film’s fictitious band including five music videos in 5.1 audio and a Behind-the-Music like mini-documentary called Future Sounds: Munchhausen by Proxy.

While the colors evident on the DVD transfer of the film seem extraordinarily dulled even when you tweak with the brightness setting, the best extras on the disc for Carrey fanatics are the gag reels, “Downtime on the Set of Yes Man,” and getting a behind-the-scenes view of the actor as he prepares for the film’s numerous physical stunts since his wallflower character Carl begins to take more extreme action as a “yes man.”

And although any change for the previously withdrawn Carl is a positive one in the eyes of his friends, they begin to grow alarmed when they discover the reason for his new sense of joie de vivre. And soon enough the inventive gimmick begins to run out of fuel just like Carl’s vehicle as it becomes a one-man showcase for the freewheeling Jim Carrey, sidelining his terrific supporting cast including Deschanel (who is always a welcome presence but has essentially played this character about five times too often much like Carrey).

The one welcome standout in the film—despite its shameless in-house studio plugs—is the talented New Zealand newcomer Rhys Darby (an actor and comedian) who is laugh-out-loud funny as Carl’s desperate for a friend boss at the savings and loan. Carrey concurred in the press notes, describing Rhys Darby as extolling Peter Sellers like “lunacy behind his eyes” that “just leaps out of the movie,” and he’s definitely right as his character hosts a variety of theme parties like Harry Potter and 300 (both WB features) for Carl and Allison to attend.

While Carrey is always fun to watch and you love some of the antics on principle such as their decision to take the first flight they can out of L.A. and end up in Lincoln, Nebraska—by the time he gets pleasured by an elderly woman, sings a suicidal Luis Guzman off a ledge with his rendition of a Third Eye Blind tune, bungee jumps off a bridge, and rides a Ducati in a crazy final chase—you realize that once again, Yes Man feels a bit like defrosted left-overs, lacking the original tasty seasoning the first time we’d experienced it served up in his other work.

And despite the fact that its 104 minute running time still feels a tad padded and more should’ve been done to build a far more engrossing story to further Carrey’s hope that the goal of the film is “about choosing to join life,” as opposed to holding residency in “the United States of Avoidance” in lieu of a bunch of gags thrown together to try and top the one before it, when it works it’s because of the work of those involved. Additionally, it’s elevated by the fact that every once in awhile, a person just feels like seeking comfort in microwave dinners with entrees that were first popular in the ‘60s on nights we feel like staying in and saying “yes” to a movie rather than jumping off a bridge with a bungee cord.