Thursday, 12 January 2017

Yes Man

I'm not really sure what to say about this movie.
I mean, it's not a bad movie by any means. But nothing really sticks out about it.
After all, if you ask someone to name their favourite Jim Carrey roles, Carl Allen doesn't often get remembered, let alone mentioned.
Who man?
So let's have a look at it and see if I can find anything worth discussing.

The movie starts with our main character Carl refusing a phone call.
This is what phones used to look like.
Carl is wandering around a DVD rental place (A kind of proto-Netflix, where you would have to physically leave the house). His phone keeps ringing as he queues up, causing him to accidentally answer it.
As a typical Englishman, I sympathise with the horror of answering a phone.
Turns out that it's his best friend, played by Bradley Cooper.
This guy.
Bradley's trying to persuade Carl to hang out that night with some of their friends. Carl attempts to refuse (With ever-worse attempts at lying) but Bradley refuses to take no for an answer.
Later we're introduced to Bradley's girlfriend, played by one of the girls from Charmed.
And also another friend of his, played by one of the guys from That 70s Show.
I'm betting their characters have names, but I'm also betting that very few people care.
The reason Bradley was so adamant that Carl be there was because he was announcing his engagement to Charmed.
This takes Carl by surprise since he thought they'd only been together for six months. They've actually been together for two years, but Carl hangs out with them so rarely it could have been two weeks and he wouldn't have known the difference.
And that's when Carl excuses himself, since his ex-wife is at the bar.
Everyone assumes that he's lying to try and leave, until they see that his ex genuinely is at the bar.
And of course she comes over. With her new fella.
Things get very awkward and Carl leaves.
Much to Bradley's disappointment.
The next morning Carl leaves his apartment only to be accosted by his elderly neighbour, who invites him over for breakfast.
Carl naturally refuses and, on his coffee run he refuses a guy handing out flyers for a band.
It's almost like Carl's entire life is set up so that he has to say no every five minutes.
He eventually makes it to work, which is at a bank.
Working for the world's dorkiest bank manager.
His boss's name is Norman and when I say someone's dorky, I mean it.
He greets Carl in a very dorky manner and Carl tries to, you guessed it, duck out of the conversation.
Norman gets a phone call, which he takes at Carl's desk, which turns out to be about a promotion which is getting filled.
By someone who isn't Carl.
Norman tries to cheer Carl up by inviting him to a funny hat and/or wig party.
You can guess where this is going, can't you?
But he looked so excited about the prospect.
After a very awkward silence Carl refuses a bunch of loans then goes on his lunch break, where he's approached by an old school friend.
An old school friend who kicks off the plot.
Ok, something happens in this scene which truly irks me.
It came up earlier, but I didn't really mention it.
Basically, Carl has been working at the bank for 5 years. 5 whole years and he's upset that he hasn't been promoted yet.
This is something I noticed in a few movies about people who're unhappy with their lives. It seems like in all of them, if you haven't been promoted at your workplace within 5 years, you're a failure at your job.
Nevermind that people work hard for those positions and generally try to hold onto them once they have them. Nevermind that you won't be the only person vying for the few promotions available. Nevermind that in a time of economic uncertainty companies tend to stop promoting people.
None of that matters.
If you haven't been promoted within 5 years, you are a failure.
Which is utter bullshit and I'm fed up with it.
Anyhoo, back to the movie.
The browncoat tells Carl about a new program for unhappy people, based around the idea of saying yes to everything. To prove how happy it makes him, he tells Carl to ask him if he wants to throw a rock at the bank window.
How to tell if you're in a movie. If you do this and don't get arrested, you're in a movie.
Also, don't do this. You will get arrested.
After a montage of his life not changing (Including Carl calling his ex) Carl is sitting down watching Saw (No, I'm not going to watch that movie, not even for a review. Ever.) and he refuses a phone call from Bradley.
Only for Bradley to show up at the door.
"Wow, this is even more awkward than the last time you caught me ignoring you."
Bradley is angry because Carl missed his engagement party.
Despite Bradley sending him multiple texts, e-mails and trying to phone regularly.
Carl feebly apologises but Bradley storms out, saying that his fiancee doesn't like his best friend and he can't think of a good reason why she should.
Just like I can't think of a good joke for this screenshot.
Later on, Bradley and 70s show up at Carl's apartment, but they find that he's even more lifeless than usual.
Hard to tell the difference though.
They cover his copse with a blanket, but it's of course a dream that Carl's having.
This inspires Carl to make a change, so he goes to the seminar that Browncoat invited him to.
Carl sits down and watches as the speaker walks onto the stage and is it just me or does the speaker seem rather similar to the tv guy from the Matrix sequels?
To be honest, all old white guys in suits look the same to me.
He gives a speech about the central philosophy of his idea, which is basically that if you put good vibes out into the universe, the universe will put good vibes back towards you.
Which is not how the universe works, but whatever.
The old white guy asks if there're any newcomers and Browncoat helpfully points out that Carl is new.
Once again, I can sympathise with Carl here.
When the old white guy call Carl up to the stage, Carl naturally refuses. 
So the old white guy goes to Carl.
Uncomfortably so.
He guesses Carl's situation (Namely, being miserable) and makes a covenant with him. Carl will say yes to everything and his life will get better.
As he leaves a homeless man asks Carl to give him a lift. Carl's about to refuse, but Browncoat's still nearby so he says yes.
No pressure or anything.
Carl helpfully drives the homeless guy to a park on the other side of the city, even lending him his phone when asked. As they reach their destination the homeless guy asks for some money, so naturally Carl complies.
And then the car runs out of petrol.
This forces Carl to trek to the nearest petrol station and fill up a canister.
But luckily, this is where he meets his love interest.
A then mostly-unknown Zoey Deschanel.
Carl continues to mutter to himself about his circumstances but is interrupted by Zoey taking a photo of him.
It does open up a conversation between them though and Carl explains about how he got into his current situation.
This piques Zoey's interest and she gives him a ride on her moped.
If I were Carl I'd be less worried about her speed and more concerned about her hair whipping me in the face all of the time.
Carl refills his car and thanks Zoey for the lift. As they say goodbye he makes a joke about making out and she complies.
If only life truly were that easy.
The next day Carl is chilling out at home when he gets a phone call from Norman asking if he can work (It's a Saturday).
Bet you can't guess his response.
While there Carl checks him e-mails, signing himself up to a website called Persian Wife Finder.
Because back in 2008 nobody had spam filters apparently.
And then a woman asks for a small business loan for her business, which is making cakes in the shape of celebrities.
RIP George Michael.
"It's Bono."
After approving the loan Carl is called in to speak to Norman, who naturally questions Carl's decision-making skills.
And fully approves. In fact, he approves so much that he reveals that he stood up to his superiors and made sure that Carl was given that promotion.
Well, not really. But since Carl was willing to work on Saturday whereas the other guy wasn't, Norman can give Carl that promotion.
Later on Carl is actually spending time with Bradley and 70s, apologising for being a douche. He also explains the covenant where he must say yes to everything.
Because there's no way telling you best friends that you must say yes to everything could ever backfire, is there?
None that I can think of.
Carl and his friends manage to escape from the miniature Vin Diesel and Carl pukes into his bathroom. He seems pretty happy about it though.
The next morning Carl manages to wake up at a reasonable hour and leaves, only to be met by his elderly neighbour. Who once again invites him over for breakfast.
And, as it turns out, more.
If there's one thing Jim excels at, it's facial expressions.
Carl flees the room, but trips down the stairs and almost gets set upon by a dog.
Which convinces Carl that saying no will bring the fury of the universe down upon his head.
So he goes back and says yes.
If this image doesn't define your nightmares, something is wrong with you.
On the following Monday Carl is once again checking e-mails, this time agreeing to Norman's Harry Potter themed costume party.
Norman is pleased by this. Norman may also need to buy new underwear. Luckily he has some tissues right next to him.
Later Carl is at the coffee place, looking at the small ads board.
In total, he learns to play guitar, learn Korean and fly small aircraft.
How fortunate he started this adventure with a high-paying job and no dependants. Imagine if you tried to do this on minimum wage and with children to look after.
Enough thinking about real-world problems, let's look at the funnyman get up to hijinks.
Carl even accepts the flyer to go see that band.
And who happens to be the lead singer of that band?
What a coincidence.
Yep, Zoey is the lead singer of the band. The band themselves are pretty rubbish, but I think that's by design because when Zoey sings she proves to be darn awesome at it.
It's just that she sings for about thirty seconds before the band gets bizarre with strange instruments and stranger costumes.
After he band has finished Zoey goes to the bar and asks for a glass of water, noticing Carl for the first time.
On the left: Cat who got the cream.
On the right: Five seconds from calling the police.
Carl walks Zoey to her moped and they talk, which results in Zoey inviting him to her running photography class.
Yes, it's as bizarre as it sounds.
Carl is happy to accept and goes to bed happily thinking about how his life has turned around for the better.
That's when he gets a call from 70s inviting him out for a night on the tiles.
Guess how he got through it?
Carl says bye to 70s and his new friend, Lee, the male nurse (I mention it because it becomes a plot point).
Carl joins the running photography class whilst still amped on Red Bull, only to crash halfway along.
To be fair, I'd do the same.
Later Carl and Bradley are chatting at a nice little cafe and Carl does nothing but sing Zoey's praises.
Ignoring the date he got from Persian Wife Finder, who's sitting right next to him.
This movie just loves throwing awkward moments at us.
Charmed shows up and is unhappy because none of her friends have offered to throw her a bridal shower.
Because apparently she has the worst taste in friends.
Seriously, what kind of friends does she have if literally none of them are willing?
So guess who gets given the job?
How does Bradley Cooper manage to be both gorgeous and punchable at the same time?
Meanwhile, Carl and Zoey go to Norman's fancy dress party and I have to say that Carl's cosplaying skills are not really up to par.
I know we're not meant to judge too harshly for first-timers, but getting a jumper that fit couldn't have been that difficult, surely?
And I don't remember Hermione wearing her blouse unbuttoned that much. Or wearing a cardigan with a boob window.
After they leave Carl and Zoey sneak into an outdoors auditorium (I think that's what it's called) and sing a little, before officially getting into a relationship.
I'm not jealous that he's kissing (And more) a cute girl on an outdoor stage.
I'm jealous that she's still wearing her Hermione costume while they do it.
After everything's over they get caught by a security guard and flee.
Later on Carl is dishing out loan applications left, right and centre (Including one to Lee the male nurse so that he can get a Ducati.) when someone from their head office calls him and Norman into a meeting.
Although I've no idea why the director of NCIS is here.
Director Vance (Yeah, like I'm going to bother with his character's actual name) isn't there to fire them. He's there to promote Carl.
Why?
Because, as he says, people are so happy to see their dreams fulfilled that 98% of them pay back their loans.
That's not how that would work, but let's roll with it.
Later, Carl and Charmed are shopping for wedding shower stuff (Remember that plotline?).
I can't even keep track of character names, let alone plotlines.
Things are going well, except for the sales assistant who's in a foul mood. She's upset because she has to deal with people who're excited about getting married whilst she sits alone, getting older and wishing she could meet a nice guy.
Naturally, she refuses to say anything until Carl speaks to her in Korean.
Ok, while it's BS that Carl would have learnt her native language (Coincidence), if we accept that then this scene does make sense. Because when some emigrates to another country they tend to suffer culture shock and when someone comes along who reminds you of home they tend to develop emotional bonds quicker.
So I'll give this development a pass.
The bit where Carl talks a guy off f a window ledge using a guitar and the one song he knows (Which just so happens to be about preventing someone from committing suicide) strains credulity a little too far.
My BS metre is flying off the charts.
Later on Carl is arriving at an airport when he bumps into his ex. She's off to her partner's place somewhere tropical, but Carl's genuinely not bothered since he's going somewhere with Zoey. He doesn't know where.
Ted seems just as confused about why he's in this movie as I am.
Carl and Zoey hop on the very first flight which turns out to be Lincoln, Nebraska.
I have no idea what's in Lincoln, Nebraska, but they seem to have a very good time.
It's proven science that silly hats equals fun, no matter the activity.
It all culminates in Zoey asking Carl if she can move in with him and, after a moment of hesitation, he says yes.
When they get to the airport, however, things take a turn for the worse when they get stopped by two men in suits, who'd like to have a word with Carl.
This looks like a lovely situation to be in.
They're suspicious of Carl because of a variety of reasons. Learning Korean, getting a pilots' license, registering with Persian Wife Finder, giving a loan to a guy starting up a manure company. They even bring up his 6 month marriage (Which, as it turns out, he hadn't told Zoey about yet).
Luckily Carl calls his lawyer (Who happens to be Bradley, because everybody is best friends with a lawyer in Hollywood) who explains about Carl's covenant.
In front of Zoey.
Who didn't know about it.
And isn't best impressed.
Upset Zoey Deschanel is both adorable and heartbreaking, which just goes to show how good she is at building empathy with the audience.
Also, her voice squeaks a little.
It is the cutest thing ever.
After the two men let them go Zoey storms off, very angry at Carl.
Carl tries to get a chance to make it up to her, but she tells him to go jump off of a bridge.
So he does.
Jim Carrey insisted he do this stunt himself. The Director insisted he do this stunt after filming the rest of the movie.
Whilst dangling upside down from the bridge Vance calls him and tells him that they're shutting down several branches.
One of them is his old branch.
And they want Carl to be the one to break the news.
Norman takes it like a man.
Carl's life takes another downward turn as he listens to his answerphone messages. Not only is his car broken (Thanks to 70s) but he hasn't confirmed anything for Charmed's wedding shower.
So when he meets up with them outside of a bar it looks like he's going to have to apologise, but he managed to call in several favours and get a pretty decent party going.
He even uses it as a chance to set up Norman and the Korean lady, putting some sunshine into both of their lives.
And here we get to see 70s hooking up with Carl's neighbour.
More importantly, we see comedian Danny Wallace doing his cameo.
You may recognise him from the Assassin's Creed series of games. I recognise him from the book this movie was based on.
After Carl gets home he receives a phone call from his ex. Not Zoey, his earlier ex. Turns out that they had a fight and she's now single again.
So she comes onto him.
Which he refuses.
Which seems to cause him some bad luck.
Like being trapped in a bad Shyamalan movie.
Or any Shyamalan movie.
As he leaves things get weirder as his car gets towed and he sees the driver as himself.
More weirdly, the tow truck driver was played by Jim's own stunt double, making this scene come off as genuinely unsettling.
He's got a face that's recognisable, but you just don't know what from.
Carl decides to do the next logical step, ending the covenant he made.
How?
By asking the old white guy to remove it.
And he chooses a time and place that are unlikely to freak him out.
Then they get hit by a truck and die.
Well, nearly.
After a cheap boob joke Carl wakes up in the hospital with Bradley and 70s by his side.
Carl explains that he needs to get the covenant removed and Bradley calls him crazy, a sentiment that's backed up by the old white guy.
Let's hope he's not too mad about the car. Or the hospitalisation. Or the stalking.
The old white guy explains to Carl that the whole 'covenant' thing was just him riffing to keep the crowd happy.
He also explains that saying yes to everything is just the first part of his philosophy. Once people are open to saying yes they get into the habit of saying it and expecting things to turn out well in return.
In other words, like most of these self-improvement philosophies, most of it is BS with a little bit of genuine helpfulness in there.
So Carl realises what he must do and dashes off to do it.
But his car was towed, so he has no way to get there, but luckily he bumps into Lee.
And Lee owes him a favour.
A favour to do with his new Ducati.
So, remember the whole 'Has a stunt double in this movie' thing I mentioned earlier?
Fun fact, in England he is technically wearing all the safety equipment he's required to wear. Police are allowed to pull him over and advise against wearing nothing more than a hospital gown whilst riding a motorbike, but they wouldn't be able to arrest him.
They could administer a breathalyser test though.
Or arrest him for indecent exposure.
Or for riding on the pavement. They could arrest him for that too.
Carl makes it to Zoey and tells her something incredibly important.
He does not want her to move in with him.
She's clearly bowled over by such a romantic gesture.
Carl chases after her and pours his heart out about how he used to be. How he used to be too scared to say yes because he always thought he wasn't enough.
This heartfelt confession (And one I can empathise with) is enough to get her to agree to give him a second chance and the film ends with things on the up.
So, how was this movie?
Overall it was very good. Carl started out as an asshole who became more empathetic over time and Zoey was great as the love interest. The overall message of saying yes to things not because you have to but because you want to is a solid enough life lesson. So why is this movie so unremarkable?
I think it's because Jim already made this movie, and made it better.
This is essentially The Mask but without the titular mask.
Think about it.
Jim plays a miserable bank worker with no social life. He's a likeable enough guy but he just never gets out of his apartment to go do anything.
Then, just as his life is at its' lowest, something happens which changes his outlook and causes him to get enough confidence to be with the girl he truly cares about. He even discards the very thing that gave him the confidence in the first place because he's outgrown it.

Next week things take a daemonic turn as I review a film called Red Reaper.
And yes, I know nobodies ever heard of it. Next week, you can find out why.

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