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Film / Yes-Man

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One word can change everything.
"The world's a playground. You know that when you're a kid, but somewhere along the line everyone forgets it."

Yes Man is a 2008 film where Jim Carrey has to say yes to everything.

Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is a divorced, dead-end jobbed, stick in the mud. He says no to everything and everyone. When a friend drags him to a self-help seminar, all of that changes. Instructed to say "yes" to everything, Carl starts branching out and trying things he would never have agreed to before, whether he wants to or not. When he says "no," terrible things seem to happen to him.

It's very loosely based on the memoir Yes Man, by Danny Wallace.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The original was inspired by some random stranger's comment on the bus. The film replaces this with a meeting with an old friend of Carl's, then a huge motivational seminar.
  • Anti-Love Song: Sweet Ballad ("Got nothing to prove, I'm not your whore...") and Uh-Huh ("I should have been the one to break up with you...")
  • Badass Biker: Carl with Lee's Ducati.
  • Big "YES!": The premise of the film involves Carl essentially becoming a Yes-Man, so naturally, this happens.
  • Black Comedy: Carl's friends finding him dead. With flies all over him. And in his mouth. Of course it's all just a dream.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A mail-order bride, learning to fly a plane, and a loan for a fertilizer company at first appear to be one-off gags, but all factor into the plot later when Carl and Allison are detained at the airport. The loan for the motorcycle and Lee being a nurse (conveniently at the hospital where Carl is taken) also turn out to be important.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Learning to speak Korean and play the guitar seem to just be miscellaneous examples in a montage of things Carl says yes to, but they come in especially handy later. Same with the scooter/motorcycle.
  • Close on Title: All the credits, including the name of the film, are placed at the end.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Pretty much everyone who's been to one of Terrence's events seems to believe that his philosophy really is about saying "yes" to everything, rather than it just being a way of opening people up to new ideas and experiences. Carl is the only person to get the full idea behind it, and even then that doesn't happen until Terrence explicitly tells him.
    • Nick manages to miss the point in a completely different way, as he uses the "say yes" philosophy to give him an excuse to do all sorts of immoral and illegal stuff, like throwing a brick through the bank's window and supposedly blowing up a cow with a bazooka.
  • Creator Cameo: Danny Wallace who has his background cameo behind a horny old lady in the bar. To the extent that Carl is based on Danny, also a Real-Person Cameo.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Allison, played by... you guessed it, Zooey Deschanel, who did it a couple of times before. Carl is also pretty snarky himself.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When Allison decides to dump Carl after discovering that he says "yes" to everything, so she can't be sure if he really has feelings for her, Carl assumes that where she messed up was by hesitating to accept his proposal to move in together, because he came to the conclusion that hesitating counts as a "no."
  • Embarrassing Hospital Gown: The climactic Race for Your Love scene near the end of the film has Carl leaving the hospital while still wearing his hospital gown, borrowing a friend's motorcycle to do so. It's made very clear during the scene he's inadvertently flashing his butt to hundreds of drivers as he does.
  • Fake Band: Munchausen by Proxy. The soundtrack album consists of nine Eels songs and four Munchausen by Proxy songs note , and the liner notes have some fun with this: There's an essay about Munchausen by Proxy written by Eels' vocalist E and an essay about Eels supposedly written by Allison... So in other words you have a real musician writing about a fictional band and a fictional musician writing about a real one.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Lampshaded and Subverted. Carl thinks that his delay in accepting Allison's proposal to move in with her made him look dishonest. His friend makes it clear that it's because he says "Yes" to everything that actually made him look dishonest.
  • Hipster: Allison, if her strange fashion sense and a penchant for indie music and unusual hobbies are any indication. A rare non-satirical example.
  • Interrupted Suicide: The "Jumper" scene.
  • In Name Only: The film is only very tenuously related to the book which it derives from, Very Loosely Based on a True Story to the point of being just "inspired by".
  • Large Ham: Terence Stamp is over the top and seems to enjoy it. Jim Carrey, however, is much more restrained than in his earlier movies.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Carl seems to think this is what happens if he breaks the Yes Contract, and it appears this way both times he attempts to say something other than "yes" until Terrence explains things to him.
  • Manchild: Apart from having a very childish sense of humour, Norm is a Harry Potter and 300 fanboy.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Allison, played by the trope's perceived poster girl Zooey Deschanel, is a subversion. Her quirky hobbies are entirely for herself, and she's pretty horrified at the idea of just being a tool for Carl's happiness. She also calls him out when he tells her that she's so fearless, and explains that of course she has her own fears, and that she's also perfectly happy living her life without him.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The first time Carl tries to go against the covenant and say "no" he almost meets with a terrible end. From then on he's convinced that he's actually magically contracted to say "yes." When he hunts down Terrence and asks him to remove the covenant from him, he informs him there is no covenant. It's left up to the viewer to decide if it was magic, or the power of suggestion.
  • Meet Cute:
    • A subversion occurs with Carl and Allison.
    • Played completely straight when Carl introduces Soo-Mi to Norm.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: Played for Laughs when Carl is detained by federal agents who, judging by his weird hobbies, believe that he's a North Korean spy preparing a 9/11-style terrorist plot.
  • Moral Luck: A minor example. As a result of having to say "yes" to everything Carl ends up granting every loan application that he receives. He later receives praise and a promotion from his superiors. Of course, it was entirely down to chance that the loan applicants he happened to see during this period were people who wanted fairly small loans which they were able to pay back; if they had happened to be people demanding larger loans which they could not possibly repay, Carl would have granted them nevertheless, and received blame from his superiors (and perhaps even been fired).
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Mostly averted, with Carl and his coworkers being portrayed as honest and fairly beneficial to society. Their boss Mr. Parker does say that the bank isn't in the habit of giving out small loans but doesn't object to giving them out after seeing how most of the people pay them back. Later he shuts down Norm's branch, although it is unclear if this was his personal decision, or how strong the factors behind it were.
  • Motor Mouth: Carl, after having one too many Red Bull energy drinks. Also Norm whenever he's cover up nervousness or to trying to make friends.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Terrence has one of these in the very last shot of the film, as he realizes from the hundreds of naked people, who had happily donated all of their clothing to charity at Carl's request that no-one (aside from Carl) has understood the point of his message at all.
  • Naked People Are Funny:
    • The end of the movie has all attendees of the seminar attend naked cause they donated all their clothes, causing Terrence's "My God What Have I Done" moment.
    • And Carl's upskirt (or rather, up-hospital-gown) moment as he rides the Ducati to get back Allison.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Terrence really seems to want to motivate people to have new experiences, unfortunately, without knowing it what he ends up causing is that people take his advice too literally.
  • Pac Man Fever: Averted. Jim Carrey's character plays "Flowers" on DanceDanceRevolution SuperNOVA, and actually plays it well (crossovers and all). He was apparently trained by an expert player, and it showed.
  • Precision F-Strike: During Carl's rant after his first "yes" act. It's quite understandable too.
    • When paying for gas with his credit card, he says under his breath that "it's [my] only fucking option."
    • When Carl hides in the backseat of Terrence's car and scares him, Terrence understandably yells "what the fuck?!", prompting them to immediately get into a car crash.
  • Product Placement:
    • The only discernible reason for Red Bull to be mentioned as many times as it is.
    • And also the Tempurpedic mattress and the cup of wine.
    • Norm stops a scene dead in its tracks to talk about Costco.
    • The shot showcasing some of the titles at the local Blockbuster, like Transformers and 300.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: The hero goes skeet shooting with his girlfriend. She asks what to do, and accidentally shoots the ground. After the instructor shows her where to point, she hits the clay pigeon. In her excitement, she turns around still holding the gun and everyone in the shooting range ducks for cover.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The film has a number of tributes to the Harry Potter film series including a die-hard Harry Potter fan and a scene where the characters marathon the movie series. It should come as no surprise that producer David Heyman, who produced the Harry Potter films, also produced this movie. Or that Warner Bros. distributed all of them.
    • "I got blisters on me fingers!"
  • Squick: The scene where Tillie helps Carl...release. It was in-universe Squick for him too until he found out she's apparently pretty good at it.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal/Interrupted Suicide: Carl sings a man back from the ledge with "Jumper". At one point, he blanks on the next lyric and the suicidal guy joins in. Winds up becoming an Audience Participation Song.
  • That Came Out Wrong:
    • When Carl tries to bolt when his ex-wife and her new man walk up in the bar, he stretches out the word "gone" into "gone-a-rea". Oops.
    • "I might break the sacred cun-a-vunt... that sounded naughty..."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Which is to say, the premise is essentially the same but virtually everything else is different from the way it really happened. In real life, Danny Wallace started the project after being told to "say yes more" by a man on a bus — it had nothing to do with any self-help organization, and all the stuff that Carrey's character does while in yes mode is different from what Wallace did in real life.