That stink emanating from the vicinity of Yes Man is desperation—specifically, that of Jim Carrey, who with this Peyton Reed-helmed comedy both cops to his dramatic forays’ imprudence and attempts to right his career’s downhill slide by unimaginatively rehashing Liar Liar. Rather than an inveterate fibber forced to tell the truth, Carrey’s latest act-the-opposite protagonist, bank loan officer Carl Allen, is an antisocial grump who learns, thanks to a self-help seminar run by Terence Stamp’s guru, to say yes to everything. This naturally leads to a variety of “funny” scenarios—Carl giving a ride and cash to a homeless man, organizing a wedding shower for his best friend’s (Bradley Cooper) wife, taking guitar and Korean language lessons, going bungee jumping, agreeing to oral sex with an elderly neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan)—as well as a revelation about the joy that comes from being open to the world. This epiphany most literally comes in the form of free spirit Allison (Zooey Deschanel), whose scooter helmet (it’s got cartoon eyes on it!), band (they wear seahorse hats!), and jogging-photography class (the students are weird!) all scream QUIRKY with an aggressiveness only surpassed by Carrey’s typical mugging.
The mechanized plot and its “live life” message provide basic context for situations in which Carrey agrees to do things uncomfortable and/or outrageous, and though many recurring bits (like Carl’s boss’s Warner Bros. movie-themed costume parties) are cringe-inducing and the star’s manic shtick feels lethargically recycled, his hyper-enthusiasm nonetheless enlivens at least a few of the episodic film’s numerous sitcom-ish moments. Yes Man‘s passable PG-13 humor is the sort best suited for a hangover Sunday morning, when its innocuous conventionality might prove soothing, which bodes well for its HBO prospects but says little for Reed, whose knack for smart, energetic comedy, already MIA in