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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Yes Man (review)

Yes! We can take everything that is intriguingly dark and almost sinister about crying-on-the-inside clown Jim Carrey and make it light! and upbeat! and unambiguous! Yes! We can take Carrey’s 1997 appallingly awful hit Liar Liar — about an inveterate liar magicked into speaking nothing but the truth — and recycle it into a new movie that takes enforced cheerfulness to a new level of reactionary optimism! Like a Hollywoodized version of the British arthouse wonder Happy-Go-Lucky, this overly broad tale of a sad naysayer (Carrey: Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!) who self-helps his way to positivity via only ever saying Yes! to whatever opportunity crosses his path removes all subletly, sweetness, and humor from the idea of being open to life and replaces it with a childish black-and-white adherence to dogma that it would be an insult to cartoons to call cartoonish — any given Bugs Bunny short has spades more delicacy and sensitivity than this sorry excuse for a pleasant night out at the movies. Fantastical in intent but downright transparent in its phoniness, this also represents a new low for “corporate synergy,” embracing product placement of other Warner Bros. properties as some sort of measure of authentic living. Ugh.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude sexual humor, language and brief nudity

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Bradzilla

    Huh. I know absolutely nothing more about this movie than I did before reading the review… No, that’s not true; I know that MaryAnn didn’t like it.

  • The funny thing, in comparing it to Liar, Liar, is that this movie was based on a non-fiction (but humorous) book. The author, Danny Wallace (a British TV/Radio producer) is a crazy man who once asked people to join him (with no actual purpose but to join), started his own country (ok, that was done for a tv program) and helped his friend Dave Gorman find other Dave Gormans in the world (Dave, Danny’s former flat mate, is also crazy – just look at his Googlewhack adventure…)

    So it’s sad that this will be (and has been) compared to Liar, Liar, simply because it stars the same person (lazy casting, if you ask me…) Also sad, that while I’d like to support Danny’s first venture into Hollywierd, it’s not worth taking out a second mortgage to see it…

  • Accounting Ninja

    It’s not that it JUST stars the same person, it’s practically the same premise, only without the magic, and hopefully, without the smarmy kid teaching his dad A Very Important Lesson.

  • MaryAnn

    Carrey learns the Very Important Lesson here from Zoe Deschanel. She’s not smarmy, but she is very woefully misused here. I hope she got paid well.

  • Zoe Deschanel gets woefully misused in almost every movie. By all rights, she should be this generation’s answer to Jean Arthur or Carole Lombard. Instead, she’s still playing second banana to actors like Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey.

    That said, she seems to be the only reason I’d even come close to contemplating seeing this flick.

  • MaryAnn

    Women are not allowed to be funny, not really. And if a woman is physically attractive and funny, it gives Hollywood conniptions. Hollywood has no idea what to do with such a creature.

  • It seems obvious from the number of old movies I’ve seen that Hollywood used to know what to do with such a creature. But now I’m just preaching to whatever the secular atheist equivalent of a choir is.

  • blake

    MaryAnn, Merly Streep is funny and attractive. Kinda.

    As is Goldie Hawn.
    I haven’t seen Goldie in a while….
    Maybe Hollywood did run out of ideas for them.
    As I think about it, those chicks are kinda old.

    Wait a mo…

    Tina Fey is funny and attractive and successful. Look, I know that’s telly not the flicks but it’s kinda the same.

    I blame, as I always do, the writers.

  • Vergil

    Maybe women just aren’t funny.

  • amanohyo

    Tracey Ullman and Wanda Sykes would like to have a word with you after class Vergil, or perhaps I should call you by your true name……. Christopher Hitchens! Dun dun duuuuuun!!! But seriously, I know several funny women personally including my wife. There seem to be a lot more funny women on British television though. I’m not sure why.

  • “There seem to be a lot more funny women on British television though. I’m not sure why.”

    maybe for the same reason they are able to give work to interesting-looking women, who are attractive but not “conventionally pretty” (i.e., kate ashfield, sarah parish, fenella woolgar, katy murphy, georgina taylor) and funny women (catherine tate, jessica hynes and many others) and women who are over the age of 30 (helen mirren, joan plowright, julia deacon…).

  • MaryAnn

    Vergil, trolls are not welcome here. Either don’t be trollish, or don’t comment.

  • Vergil

    I admit my post was perhaps a bit brief for effect, but not intentionally trollish. Actually amanohya, Hitchens makes quite a few good points in the article. Few things are more subjective than comedy, but I don’t really find Tracey Ullman or Wanda Sykes that funny. Ellen Degeneres is funny, but maybe it’s just because she’s homosexual (not THAT sounds trollish…)

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, it does sound trollish. Commenters can say almost anything they want here — as long as it’s on topic — so if you don’t want to be accused of being a troll — or having your comment deleted for being trollish — you need to make it connect to the matter under discussion.

    So, what “effect” were you intending when you suggested that half the human race might not be funny? And what does whom you like to have sex with have to do with being funny?

  • amanohyo

    You can’t fool me Hitchens; I’m on to your little game. Trying to goad me into a debate so you can decimate me with your sparkling wit. Please reread the Alessandra Stanley rebuttal published in your own magazine. Then rewatch your own rebuttal of the rebuttal and the circle will be complete.

    Hitchen’s main claim is that it’s necessary for men to be funny in order to get the chance to impregnate a woman while women conversely do not need to be funny in order to be sexually attractive.

    This may be true in the extremely narrow slice of society that he regularly associates with, but it certainly isn’t the case once socioeconomic status is taken into account, to say nothing of nationality, to say nothing of the prehistoric human cultures in which almost all of the “microevolution” he unknowingly alludes to took place.

    He also conveniently ignores the fact that many women do in fact look for physical appearance (and/or financial status) first and sense of humor second or not at all, just as many men enjoy spending their “quality time” with funny, clever women rather than simply screwing anything pretty with a pulse.

    In short, he seems to be using the standard egocentric patriarchal argument: “this is the way it is for me and the people I know, so this is the way it always was, and this is the way it will continue to be.” I’m a cynic, but not a pessimist. Human behavior is capable of changing for the better, we have proven it time and time again; biology may provide certain templates for our thoughts and actions, but we are not completely imprisoned by our genes and brain chemistry (and gonads). Or if you prefer, even discounting genetic engineering and pharmaceuticals, we have not yet come close to reaching any limits that biology might impose when it comes to gender relations.

    But back on topic (sort of), can anyone recommend a movie/show in which Zooey Deschanel shows off her comedic talent? I’ve seen and liked her performances in a few movies, but I’ve never seen her in a comic role.

  • Vergil

    MaryAnn, the effect I was looking for was for someone like amanohyo to reply, and thence (is thence a word? If not, it should be) an interesting discussion might take place. Of course I’m generalizing when I suggest that women might not be funny. Of course they are. I mean the same thing when I say that women aren’t as tall as men. In general this is true, but there are innumerable specific exceptions. I don’t necessarily believe it to be true, but there seems to be some evidence (flimsy as it may be) that this is possible in some form or fashion.

    amanohyo, I’m pretty sure Hitchens did not use the word “necessary”. I think he thinks it is one of the many variables of attraction which is more valuable to women than men. While very difficult (impossible?) to prove scientifically, I personally see lots of anecdotal evidence which suggests that this indeed may be the case.

  • Vergil

    Oh…and I don’t think whom you like to have sex with has anything to do with being funny. I just thought it was amusing to point it out, which just goes to show that I’m not funny either. Do the writers get credit for making Ellen funnier than Albert Brooks in Finding Nemo?

  • shoop

    For a funny Zooey, Failure to Launch is well worth a look. I suppose stealing a movie from Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker is petty theft, but she’s blow-soda-out-your-nose hysterical. Zooey SHOULD have been hysterically funny in The Happening, too, but somehow she wasn’t in on the joke (Zooey’s fault? M. Night’s fault? Who’s to say?).

  • amanohyo

    Thanks shoop, I’ll keep an eye out for Failure to Launch.

  • MaryAnn

    See *Mumford* for Deschanel being very dryly funny.

    Of course I’m generalizing when I suggest that women might not be funny. Of course they are. I mean the same thing when I say that women aren’t as tall as men.

    That isn’t all the same thing. Height is unquestionably quantifiable. “Funny” is not… and would not be even if women were allowed the same footing in Hollywood.

  • Vergil

    I agree. But it goes both ways. When we say women ARE funny, it is just as subjective. But that doesn’t mean it is meaningless.

  • MaryAnn

    So why not say “men are funny” or “men are not funny”? Why don’t your frame the argument that way? Isn’t that subjective, too?

    I’ll tell you why you’re not doing that (and you’re not even thinking about why you’re not doing that): because the default assumption in our culture is that men are the baseline for human, that men are “normal” and women can only deviate from that baseline in one direction or the other.

    You missed what I was saying because you got caught up in this. We can say that women are, on average, shorter than men, because we can measure each and every individual, male and female, and chart their heights. But we cannot measure how “funny” people are. I wasn’t saying that the relative funniness of women is subjective: I was saying that the relative funniness of *everyone* — male and female — is not something that can be measured.

  • For a funny Zooey, Failure to Launch is well worth a look. I suppose stealing a movie from Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker is petty theft, but she’s blow-soda-out-your-nose hysterical.

    Yes, she is. But I don’t blame MaryAnn for recommending Mumford instead because she’s funny in that one too and you don’t have to wade through as many stupid scenes to get to Zooey’s scenes as you do with FTL. Then again, FTL was the first film I saw that got me hooked on the whole Zooey Deschanel thing. Before that, she was just the love interest in that Douglas Adams movie. (Though she wasn’t all that bad in that one either…)

  • Bill

    check out “Eulogy” for some good Zooey.

  • Vergil

    I didn’t say “men are funny” because you didn’t say “men are allowed to be funny”. You said “women aren’t allowed to be funny. You chose the frame of reference.

    I didn’t miss what you were saying about the subjectivity of humor. I agreed with it. I don’t see how the idea of women not being funny can be proven or disproven. There seems to be a lack of “funny” women in movies. You say it is because of sexism in Hollywood. I just wondered out loud if there might be more to it than that. Yes, women don’t get the opportunities men get, but when given the opportunity in dramatic roles, they come through in spades. Meryl Streep has how many Academy Award nominations? Is Wanda Sykes the Meryl Streep of comedy? Really?

  • MaryAnn

    I think it’s perfectly clear that there are many funny women working in Hollywood: women like Deschanel and Missi Pyle and Kristin Chenowith, to name but a very few. Meryl Streep can be very funny, in fact.

    What’s sexist about Hollywood is that, even given plenty of evidence that women are, indeed, funny, they are never given platforms to demonstrate that, not in the same way that men are.

  • A perfect example of a beautiful actress who was never allowed to be the comedienne she was was Marion Davies.

    Lucille Ball, on the other hand, forced people to allow her to be funny.

  • Now I am wracking my brains to think of a funny performance from an actress, past or present. If what passes for comedies with women in them these days – films like The Women or Sex in the City – are held up as examples, comedy is pretty thin on the ground. Not because women can’t be funny, but because the scripts are so bad. Why do these movies get made? Who is actually finding them funny? Anyone?

    Just off the top of my head actresses who have had me laughing in the last few years: Jennifer Aniston’s dead pan performance in the “Flair” scene in Office Space, Ellen Page delivered some great lines in Juno, Emily Blunt’s performance in The Devil Wears Prada, Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones Diary. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s a start.

    For women in the past, you can’t get too much better than Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. A brilliant comic performance. Toss in Rosalind Russell in His Gal Friday, Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday…Carole Lombard in Hands Across the Table. Must think more about this. :^)

  • scbyfn4evr

    Question: Can women be funny?
    Answer: CATHERINE KEENER.

  • Mathias

    Men have always outnumbered women when it comes to who’s funny. For example, there’s 20 male stand up comedians for every woman. And that seems like an acceptable route into hollywood films. How many male stand up comedians have made it in hollywood? Dane cook, Dave Chapelle, Russell Brand, Adam Sandler, the list goes on and on.

    I think if we really wanna know why there’s a derth of female comedians in hollywood not named Tina Fey, we should try and figure out why men seem disproportionaly attracted to stand up then women.

    Perhaps this problem is bigger than just sexism in Hollywood.

  • Accounting Ninja

    It couldn’t possibly be because women, as a whole, are not encouraged to be funny, and are told that women are inherently less funny than men.
    No, that couldn’t be it…

  • Victor Plenty

    “He makes me laugh” in our culture instantly explains a relationship between a good looking woman and a man who is, well, not so much. I don’t recall ever seeing a movie or any other story where a man gets all his friends to nod sagely when he explains his attraction to an awkward looking woman with “She makes me laugh.”

    The message is clear: if you’re a man, funny equals sexy. If you’re a woman, being funny will actually hurt your chances at attracting someone, unless you are close to perfect in physical appearance and social standing.

    And we wonder why there aren’t as many women doing stand up comedy?

  • Martin

    The message is clear: if you’re a man, funny equals sexy. If you’re a woman, being funny will actually hurt your chances at attracting someone, unless you are close to perfect in physical appearance and social standing.

    Because, at least in my experience, men that don’t like funny women are the type that doesn’t like “their” women to be better at them at anything they think they’re good at.

  • For women in the past, you can’t get too much better than Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot. A brilliant comic performance. Toss in Rosalind Russell in His Gal Friday, Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday…Carole Lombard in Hands Across the Table. Must think more about this. :^)

    Not to mention the above mentioned Jean Arthur in Easy Living.

  • Chris

    The problem, now more than ever, is that Hollywood want their leading ladies to physically appeal first and foremost and whenever that culturally becomes paramount the lack of variety amongst female performers becomes clearer.

    I don’t think there’s an issue with female actressess who do comedic leading roles just as long as they’re gorgeous (Cameron Diaz). Can anyone imagine Mae West, the top star of her day and 40 to boot, being given starring vehicles where she playfully wisecracks her way through the picture?

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