Yes Man Review
Have you ever found yourself blowing off your friends because the idea of going out and pretending to be cheery seems like far too much effort? How about being passed over for promotion at work because you can’t be arsed to take on any responsibility or apply yourself in any way at all? Welcome to the life of Carl Allen, a man who since breaking up with his fiancée has gradually withdrawn from friends and work until the point where he is constantly making up excuses to avoid them both. Realising he is in an impasse, Carl attends a seminar on the request of a friend who declares that he has recently become a Yes Man. This seminar teaches Carl that saying Yes to everything is to open yourself up to life’s possibilities, and saying no will lead to life’s backhander. Carl leaves the seminar a changed man and embraces the Yes philosophy until he is saying yes to everything, and no is just a banished memory. His life quickly improves when these yeses yield unexpected benefits, eventually leading him to Allison, a perky young musician who takes life at face value and teaches Carl the meaning of a balanced appreciation of the world around him.
Yes Man scores points for having a positive, life-affirming message. Unfortunately it loses those points for being one of the most derivative comedies I’ve seen in recent years. We have a lead character that is stuck in a rut of apathy, choosing to make a change in his life that leads him to a beautiful, kooky woman who approaches life in an exactly opposite manner to himself. He has a friend who is well adjusted and in a happy relationship and another who is a party animal, He even holds a soul-crushingly administrative job with a boss who is little more than an amalgam of David Brent and Gareth Keenan. When Carl starts embracing the Yes! philosophy it soon becomes clear that what we’re watching here is a two-bit reworking of Groundhog Day; replace the social apathy of Carl Allen with arrogance and contempt and you get: Weatherman Phil. More noticeably the way Carl embraces new experiences and amasses multiple new skill sets that allow him to blow through people’s lives like a hurricane of positivity soon becomes all too familiar.
Of course in Groundhog Day Phil becomes a brilliant savant the hard way, through years of repeating the same day over and over. In Yes Man Carl decides to go learn Korean and is speaking it fluently within a matter of weeks. You can almost hear the scriptwriters saying “ah it doesn’t need to make sense, it’s only a comedy!” which is an attitude that works for a film like Ace Ventura, which is off-kilter in every single aspect, but Yes Man is trying to be an involving character piece at the same time that it is doing away with any form of inference. If you’re going to have your cake and eat it, you have to make sure it’s worth eating in the first place.
Yes Man is based on a semi-biographical book by British comic Danny Wallace, who actually spent 6 months saying yes to everything and wrote about his experiences. The concept is fantastic; the idea of someone throwing caution to the wind and living life based on a predetermined response to random propositions holds immense comedic possibility. I haven’t read Danny Wallace’s book but I find it extremely difficult to believe that the film is particularly faithful to the source material, as Yes Man feels like an extremely obvious Jim Carrey project - but one where the filmmakers are unsure whether to pander to the anarchic Carrey of yesteryear, or the more restrained character actor he has settled into.
The result is a comedy that fails to take full advantage of Carrey’s skills as a comic or actor; he’s so deep into his comfort zone that he could sleepwalk his way through the film. Zooey Deschanel is equally given very little to do as the love interest, beyond one nifty alternative musical interlude. The effortless way Carl and Allison’s relationship falls into place signposts a break up from the onset, and when it comes it is in such a contrived scenario that criticises the Bush administration’s war on terror in such a heavy-handed fashion that I actually groaned heavily. We are then treated to a break up montage, which must surely be the ultimate sign that a director has ran out of ideas to keep his narrative moving in a creative manner. At this point in the film I decided to become something of a Yes Man myself, I answered yes to the question “Should I stick with the film to the end?” when I really wanted to say no!
PresentationPresented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, this 1080p VC-1 transfer does Yes Man’s rather breezy visuals justice. Detail is very good and no DNR appears to be evident even though the transfer only has a light layer of grain. The fine detail in Carrey’s face certainly looks very pleasing. Brightness, contrast and colour reproduction are all pretty much spot on, there’s no colour bleeding or any other aberrations to speak of here and skin tones are pretty consistent. Compression is also very strong, it’s a BD-50 disc and the VC-1 encode averages out at 21.14Mbps. The only real black mark against the transfer (no pun intended) is that black levels can be inconsistent at times and tend to dip in darker shots.
In the audio department it’s fair to say that Yes Man isn’t exactly the sort of film that will give your home theatre set up a good workout. The most I can say about the English DD5.1 and Dolby TrueHD tracks present on the disc is that they provide pretty much the same sonic experience – That is they reproduce dialogue very clearly and cleanly and have enough punch in the bass and clarity in the dynamics to breathe life into the film’s soundtrack and punch to the action set pieces.
French, Spanish, and Portuguese DD5.1 tracks are also provided, neither of which quite sound right because of the rather sloppy way the dubbed dialogue is mixed into the general audio. Optional subtitles provided are English (For the Hearing Impaired), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
ExtrasThere are a number of extras on this disc, none of which are particularly long but most are very entertaining. I’ll just give you a brief rundown:
Downtime on the Set of Yes Man with Jim Carrey (03min:59secs): A rapid fire featurette made up of footage of Carrey mucking about behind the scenes during the film’s production. He demonstrates more comic flair here than in the entire film itself!
Jim Carrey: Extreme Yes Man (11m:52s): A great featurette that takes us behind the scenes of the film’s major stunts. The highlight is the Bungee Jump which Carrey performed himself and even managed to answer an incoming phone call in the same take.
On Set with Danny Wallace: The Original Yes Man (08m:32s): A light hearted feature hosted by the author of the Yes Man novel: Danny Wallace. He wanders around behind the scenes and briefly chats with various members of the cast and crew. This feature inevitably becomes more of a showcase for Carrey’s comedic skills rather than Wallace’s.
Future Sounds: Munchausen by Proxy (05m:28s): Allison’s band comprises of Zooey Deschanel and the real-life electronica act: Von Iva. This feature is shot mockumentary style and features the history of Allison’s band and interviews with the various members (all in character).
Say “Yes” to Red Bull! (02m:06s): The making of the scene where Carrey’s character is jacked up on Red Bull. This shows more Carrey-fuelled shenanigans.
Yes Man: Party Central with Norman Stokes (Rhys Darby) (02m:16s): Rhys Darby takes us through Norman’s apartment whilst in character and invents his own history for each item there.
Exclusive Munchausen by Proxy Music Videos (14m:33s): The blurb on the menu screen says this is a collection of 5 music videos (all individually selectable) from Munchausen by Proxy. What they actually are, are the full sets from the live gig that is featured in the film. All the songs are very catchy and the all-girl band isn’t exactly ugly on the eye.
Additional Scenes (07m:31s): A collection of deleted and alternative scenes, most of which are so short that they hardly make an impression. There are some worthwhile scenes though, not least of which is a long scene where Carl Allen organises Lucy’s bridal shower which explains why most people who are there are the people Allen bumped into during the course of the film. This culminates in Allen resigning from his job, and the next scene shows that he set up his own small loans company with Norm as his employee. I’m sure most viewers were expecting this twist to make it into the finished film.
Gag Reel (05m:35s): This is pretty self-explanatory, some funny clips in here.
Digital Copy of Yes Man: Inside the case you should find a serial number and web address, from which you can go to download a digital copy of the film.
All extras are shown in fullscreen 1080p/24fps with removable English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles, except for the Munchausen by Proxy music videos, which have no subtitles provided. These videos and the Additional Scenes and Gag Reel features are shown in 2.40:1 only.