EmptyJim Carrey plays a guy who can't say no in "Yes Man," based on a memoir by British author Danny Wallace about the life-changing power of positive responding.
On paper, this sort of thing would seem right up Carrey's alley, very much in that "Liar Liar" mode. So does it live up to its crowd-pleasing potential?
In a word, yes.
Carrey's most satisfying live-action effort since "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," the Peyton Reed-directed concept comedy finds its star in a notably relaxed place — still managing to work in a bit of his trademark manic shtick while maintaining a decorum more appropriate for a man approaching his late 40s.
Adult-skewing audiences in the market for holiday laughter are certain to take affirmative action, giving Warner Bros. an early Christmas present.
When we first meet Carrey's Carl Allen, he's in a negative rut: still smarting over being dumped by his girlfriend, cutting himself off from his buddies and just saying "no" to all the applications that come his way in his dull job as a loan officer.
But after he reluctantly attends a self-help seminar led by "Yes" guru Terrence Bundley (a perfectly cast Terence Stamp), Carl discovers that his life is about to change for the better, especially upon meeting the free-spirited Allison (the irresistible Zooey Deschanel), a quirky force of nature who leads photography-jogging workshops when not singing with her alt band.
Director Reed ("The Break-Up"), working from a script credited to Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall") and newcomers Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel, keeps this livelier "Bucket List" fast and loose but seldom at the expense of veering thematically off-course.
He's not the only one successfully keeping Carrey in check.
As she demonstrated playing opposite Will Ferrell in "Elf," the wonderful Deschanel has a real gift for bringing out the best in her comic leading men, while maintaining a winningly quirky comic energy all her own.
Also injecting this L.A. story with unique flavor is Reed's preference for fresh local color as provided by such underutilized backdrops as the Griffith Park Observatory, the Hollywood Bowl and the Los Feliz/Silverlake neighborhoods.
Completing the funky atmosphere is a generous selection of Eels tunes, while a guitar-playing Carrey manages to turn a Third Eye Blind hit into an inspired sing-along. (partialdiff)