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December 30, 2008 | Comments ()


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The Day Laughter Died

Yes Man / Dustin Rowles

Film Reviews | December 30, 2008 | Comments ()


Do you want to feel tied up and shredded by restlessness? Yes Man! Do you wonder whatever happened to Jim Carrey’s career? Yes Man! Do you worry that Zooey Deschanel has completely lost it? Yes Man! Do you want to waste those valuable recession dollars enduring an absolutely atrocious 104 minutes? Yes Man! Do you want to feel the cynicism of Hollywood studio money-grabbery choke the life out of you? Yes Man!! Do you want to be rendered catatonic by boredom? Yes Man! Do you want to feel the burn of hate rise up within you and spin your head and box you in the ears during this, the holiday season? Yes Man! Do you hate one-joke gimmicky reviews almost as much as you hate one-joke gimmicky movies? Yes Man! Does a strange sensation in your legs keep you up night after night?

That’s actually restless leg syndrome. You should probably see a doctor about it.

But if you answered Yes Man! to all the other questions, then have I got a movie for you. Yes Man! starring Jim Carrey in what must be the downside of his career and Zooey Deschanel, in a performance that will break your heart, if only because she’s giving it. Yes Man! is beyond lousy — it’s a unfunny caricature of lousy. If one of those sidewalk artists were doing one of those five-minute drawings of lousy, he’d be drawing a picture of Yes Man! And then he’d be struck by such a huge wave of self-loathing, he’d go out and find a real goddamn job.

This is not a movie that Jim Carrey belongs in anymore. This is a movie Jim Carrey would’ve and should’ve taken early in his career, back when he was trying to make a name for himself, back when he was trying too quickly capitalize on Fireman Bob and Ace Venture and The Mask. I’m not even a huge Jim Carrey fan (that’s a lie — I like him much more than I let on), and I know he’s made some terrible movies lately (The Number 23, Fun with Dick and Jane), but Yes Man! is so far below Carrey it’s absurd. The man can make a decent goddamn movie — he’s done it. I’ve seen it. He was outstanding in Eternal Sunshine, he was pitch perfect in The Truman Show and he was even great in the underappreciated and overlooked Capral-lite The Majestic. Jim Carrey doesn’t have to do movies like this anymore. You know, he fired two agents and dicked around for a couple of years trying to find a decent project, and this is what he came up with. Why is it that when he tries to do comedy, he can’t get beyond the one-joke, low-concept thing? Why won’t someone write a comedy for Jim Carrey that takes advantage of that inner turmoil that you can sometimes see is eating him alive? The poor bastard — when he tries to deliver a serious performance, the masses ignore him — nobody understood The Cable Guy, nobody appreciated The Majestic, and The Man on the Moon’s indifferent reception probably pummeled his ego into Mickey Rourke’s face. It seems like the guy wants to be liked so goddamn much that he’s willing to swallow his pride and go out and be middle-America’s box-office monkey. He’ll mug for you, but I don’t think his heart is in it anymore. You may not see it or appreciate it, but I’m convinced that Jim Carrey is Hollywood’s Sad Clown.

As soon as the man stops trying to make us like him, he may just turn into a consistently decent actor.

Yes Man! is not a good place to start. In it, he plays Carl, a divorced loan officer who turns down loans and ignores phones calls, miserably content with a life of Blockbuster nights. He goes to a Yes Man! self-help seminar hosted by fucking Terrence Stamp and leaves, resolved to say Yes Man! to any and every opportunity that arises, which expectedly leads to instant gratification (he finds a girl, he gets a raise, he makes friends, he throws a bridal shower, he tries Red Bull!) and possibly disastrous long-term consequences (he loses girl, he’s arrested for suspicion of terrorism, he crashes after a 12-hour Red Bull high). Zooey Deschanel, is the “quirky” love interest — she is in a terrible stream-of-consciousness band and, almost too expectedly, teaches a jogging photography class (don’t ask). She completely phones in whatever residual “quirk” she has left over after Failure to Launch and The Happening. It all, expectedly, culminates just as it did the last time Jim Carrey starred in this movie, back when it was called Liar Liar.

It’s all very pathetic, hard to watch, and kind of painful on a certain level — I’d like to believe that Jim Carrey might grow up and get beyond these movies, leave them to Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. Let somebody else do the circus tricks, brother. Jim Carrey needs a good director — as he had in Michel Gondry, in Milos Forman, in Frank Darabount — somebody that can pull the make-up off that sad clown. But he keeps insisting on these safe projects, on studio directors, on script-by-committees, afraid — I fear — of rejection. I know they make him a lot of money, and probably feed that need for approval. But you can’t keep doing the same tricks, Jim. You can’t keep being our monkey. We’ve stopped laughing, and soon enough, we’re going to stop paying attention, too.


Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives withi his wife and son in Portland, Maine You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.



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