Dumb and Strummer: Carrey isn?t sticking his neck out for Yes Man.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Yes Man isn’t exactly Liar Liar, but it’s close. The been-there-seen-that similarities may keep crowds away from this Jim Carrey comedy, which would be—well, not all that unfortunate, because even though Peyton Reed’s film has more depth than you might expect, it’d work just as well on your television screen. Carrey plays Carl, an antisocial dumpee who’s still hung up on his ex of three years and spins great stories about why he’s not answering the phone or going to meet the guys for some drinks. His insular, just-say-no lifestyle is keeping him from happiness, but he doesn’t realize it until a friend, Nick (John Michael Higgins), persuades him to attend a self-help seminar that challenges its cult to say yes to everything, no matter how stupid. His first test? A bum who asks him for a ride to the park—“You won’t regret this, Carl!” Nick says—then drains his cell-phone battery, his gas tank, and his wallet. But that leads to Carl’s walk to the gas station, where he meets Allison (Zooey Deschanel), a lovely bundle of zaniness who seems the living embodiment of his adopted philosophy. Carl’s good fortune continues Sliding Doors–style, with tiny and usually counterintuitive decisions leading to a better big picture. Yes Man is based on a book by Danny Wallace, who actually tried this experiment for a year, and its black-or-white rules of what is essentially pretty decent advice for anyone in a rut are maddening—deciding to make the most of your free time and take guitar lessons is quite different than agreeing to be your elderly neighbor’s slave, even if it does result in a toothless blowjob. (Yes, it’s gross. But you were expecting a classy Jim Carrey movie?) Mercifully, the script throws one foot back into reality just as the wackiness kicks into overdrive. Carl learns the art of a discriminating yes, courtesy of a couple of “Are you an idiot?” lectures from friends and even the self-help guru, played with hilarious gravity by Terence Stamp (“I was just riffing,” he later tells Carl when he repeats his seminar bullshit). And even though the lesson gets a little heavy-handed—the old Carl rejected relationships because he didn’t think he had anything to offer!—the film is full of goofy, joyful moments, anchored by the sweet chemistry between Carrey and Deschanel as well as a life-affirming message that everyone could use these days.