Director Peyton Reed is used to working in italics.
His "Down With Love" (2003) was an entirely italicized movie, reworking the plot mechanics and arch visual strategies
of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson sex comedies of the late 1950s and early '60s, along with Broadway-to-Hollywood adaptations
such as "Sunday in New York" (1963).
It turned out more like a cinematic term paper than a movie, but Reed's willingness to go all the way -- further than
Doris Day ever did, at least before the ring and the fade-out -- marked him as a director to watch.
In "Yes Man" he's working with the human italic button known as Jim Carrey, who shot to movie fame as Ace Ventura and
The Mask, characters straight from the cartoon world or the world according to Frank Tashlin's live-action comedies.
These days (Carrey turns 47 next month) the star isn't going for insanely broad comedy.
When he lands the right script, as he did with "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," Carrey finds real and touching
ways to channel all that energy into a performance, as opposed to a performance.
"Yes Man" starts out wobbly but ends up quite nicely, primarily because Carrey has a wonderful acting partner in
Zooey Deschanel, the singer-actress with the saucer eyes and unpredictable, behind-the-beat comic timing. Carrey by
nature is a coiled spring; Deschanel's a spring that's already sproiiiinged. If she ever co-stars in a movie with
Kat Dennings of "Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist," the world will immediately enter a permanent Zenlike state of calm.
Carrey plays Carl Allen, an L.A. loan officer at a drab bank, stuck with a goon of a superior (Rhys Darby, very funny).
Carl can't get out of his surly, self-pitying rut, three long years after his breakup. For the first 20 minutes of
"Yes Man," which was loosely based on Scottish comedian Danny Wallace's book, you think you're in for it. Carrey forces
the laughs, and the character's an uninteresting, sour fellow. Then comes Terence Stamp, in his first genuinely funny
screen appearance, as a self-help guru who challenges his followers to say "yes" to every single thing that comes their
way. Carl tries it, and before long he meets Allison (Deschanel), a bohemian L.A. polyglot who's in a band called
Munchausen By Proxy, and who teaches classes in "jogging photography," i.e., taking photos while jogging.
In its tale of an emotional shut-in who learns to embrace life, get a pilot's license and speak Korean, "Yes Man"
recalls some previous Carrey vehicles, notably "Liar Liar." The tone of "Yes Man" isn't predominantly manic, however,
and may throw some die-hard Carrey fans expecting the old shtick in high gear.
We don't like our movie stars to change on us, and yet they must, if they're to grow as actors.
What I enjoyed most
here was the interplay between two utterly different leads. Director Reed can't resolve the tensions in a spotty script
by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, which feels like a compromise between two (or more) separate drafts,
one leaning in the direction of farce, the other romance. But Carrey and Deschanel are pretty amazing to watch together
onscreen. And that makes "Yes Man" movie enough for me.
Yes Man Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity).
Running time: 1:44.
Starring: Jim Carrey (Carl Allen); Zooey Deschanel (Allison); Bradley Cooper (Peter); John Michael Higgins (Nick); Terence Stamp (Terrence); Rhys Darby (Norm).
Directed by Peyton Reed; written by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, based on the book by Danny Wallace; photographed by Robert Yeoman; edited by Craig Alpert; music by Lyle Workman and Mark Oliver Everett; production designed by Andrew Laws; produced by Richard D. Zanuck and David Heyman. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.
This charmless film concerns two lifelong friends, played by Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, whose competing weddings, mistakenly scheduled for the same day at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, turn bride-to-be against bride-to-be. Half the comedies made in Hollywood are based on the premise of boy-men acting like idiots. Switching the gender and toning down the vulgarity to a PG level offers only change, not improvement. Hathaway in particular deserves better material.
Based on a book by Bishop T.D. Jakes, this film is a faith-based love story, secondarily about God's role in the care and feeding of an L.A. couple's turbulent marriage. Thanks to Morris Chestnut, whose warm, easy screen presence was an asset way back in "Boyz N the Hood," and to Taraji P. Henson, a by-the-book scenario (described by screenwriter Brian Bird as "sort of a male version of the film 'Waiting to Exhale'") ends up being pretty entertaining.
However sterling the craftsmanship, the film adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel -- an excoriating portrait of a
mid-1950s marriage built on sticks, straw and delusion -- inflates the meaning and buffs the atmospheric surfaces of
the story, rather than digging into its guts.
But when stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet unleash their
character's demons, "Revolutionary Road" loses its tight, controlled sense of composition and air of solemnity
and, in human terms, matters.
Clint Eastwood performance as a reclusive Korean War veteran toughing it out in a sketchy Detroit-area neighborhood may well lead to his first Academy Award for acting. After the vets young neighbor (Bee Vang) breaks into his garage to steal the car for which this film is named, our hero sets out to teach the boy how to stand up to his venal gangsta cousins.
Will Smith plays an IRS agent who has committed a terrible deed and appears to be investigating the cases of a carefully selected group of people, including a seriously ill heart patient (Rosario Dawson) and a blind pianist (Woody Harrelson).
This earnest, emotional film is a mixed but pretty interesting bag, though its G rating may mislead some parents into taking 4 or 5 year-olds to it, which could lead to some freakouts. Much of the movie, based on a Newbery Medal-winning book, has a grim narrative.
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Yes Man stars Jim Carrey.
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