Yes Man

yes-manJim Carrey does wonders with a slight premise that finds his reserved, emotionally-distant character, Carl Allen, a banker who routinely turns down loan applications, accepting a challenge to open up to life by saying “yes” to everything. A man who constantly disappoints friends by weasling out of opportunities for bonding and happiness, Carl radically changes into a creature of complete spontaneity. By never saying no anymore, he gets into situations with unpredictable outcomes, such as driving a homeless stranger to a scary-looking park at night. But for the most part, whatever Carl says yes to becomes a road to worthwhile experiences, even receiving a promotion at work for approving hundreds of micro-loans against all policy. Zooey Deschanel, who often plays appealing kooks, is very good as Carl’s girlfriend, a free spirit who takes to his positivity about everything–for awhile, anyway. Director Peyton Reed (Down with Love) makes the most out of the gimmicky comedy, as does Carrey, who does wonders with scenes that are often left open-ended just to see what the brilliant comic will do with them. –Tom Keogh

Horton Hears a Who

horton-hears-a-whoDr. Seuss’s classic 1954 book Horton Hears a Who has entertained generations of children and served as the inspiration for a 26-minute, 1970 television special Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who and the 2000 Broadway musical Seussical: The Musical. This 2008, full-length animated movie features the voice talents of Jim Carrey as Horton, Steve Carrell as the Mayor of Whoville, Carol Burnett as the Kangaroo, and Jesse McCartney as JoJo and promises to delight a whole new generation of children and their parents and grandparents. The technological wonders of computer animation have allowed 20th Century Fox Animation to bring to life the wacky, colorful Whoville with its minute inhabitants and the lush Jungle of Nool with its host of distinctive animals and the result is a rich, fantastical world of wonder worthy of Dr. Seuss’ own imagination. All the major plot elements of Dr. Seuss’ book are present, with Horton hearing the faint cry for help from a tiny dust speck atop a small clover and doing his best to protect the inhabitants of that small civilization of Whoville despite the disbelief, disdain, and persecution of his fellow animals. The feel of Dr. Seuss’ original rhyming prose is partially preserved in the sparse narration by Charles Osgood that’s interspersed throughout the film’s dialogue and the overarching themes of staying true to one’s convictions and the celebration of the power of perseverance, imagination, and kindness come through loud and clear. Horton Hears a Who is a fun rendering of a classic Dr. Seuss story that’s sure to entertain viewers of all ages. –Tami Horiuchi

The Number 23

the-number-23Jim Carrey as a schizophrenic murderer isn’t convincing, in this melodramatic film about a man obsessed by the Number 23. Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, St. Elmo’s Fire) has unintentionally managed to make a comedy of horrors that really is quite humorous in parts. Walter Sparrow (Carrey) becomes engrossed in a homespun novel about Detective Fingerling, whose life degrades into mayhem because of his obsession with 23’s esoteric numerical puzzles. Sparrow’s preoccupation with the book follows his botched attempt to catch a nasty dog that bites him, leading one to believe that Sparrow’s contraction of rabies might be the cause for his mental degradation. As the story progresses, Sparrow retreats further into Fingerling’s world, rife with suicidal sexpots and hardboiled detective sleuthing. His wife, Agatha (Virginia Madsen), also plays Fingerling’s girlfriend, sex-crazed Fabrizia, who taunts Fingerling until he stabs her. Back in reality, Walter aims to solve the unresolved crimes in the book, taking it as a murderer’s diary rather than as an imagined work. The story is half-baked, though Carrey’s portrayal of a mentally disturbed person is what makes The Number 23 comedic. Long, contemplative stares, and over-dramatized acting renders Sparrow a clichéd character, rather than one odd enough to engage viewers. For a better version of almost the exact plot but with a terrorist’s twist, see Thr3e instead. –Trinie Dalton

Fun with Dick and Jane

fun-with-dick-and-janeRemakes are always a gamble, so it’s a pleasant surprise that Fun with Dick and Jane pays off with unexpected dividends. It’s as entertaining as the 1977 original starring George Segal and Jane Fonda, and the teaming of Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni makes this a safe bet for comedy fans, in spite of a slapstick screenplay that fails to achieve its fullest potential. Rather than attempt a darkly comedic send-up of the Enron scandal that left thousands of stockholders in financial ruin, director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) opts for a lighter, more accessible (read: commercial) satire of corporate greed and cynicism, beginning in the year 2000 when Dick (Carrey) gets a plum promotion as a mega-corporate communications director just as his boss (Alec Baldwin) is preparing to bail out before stock prices plummet. Dick’s wife Jane (Leoni) has quit her job as a travel agent, so the corporate bombshell leaves them penniless and desperate, resorting to petty thievery and, eventually, plotting high-stakes revenge against the greedy executives who ruined their lives. As a send-up of financial distress in a ravaged post-Enron economy, Fun with Dick and Jane delivers laughs with just enough pointed humor to give it a strong satirical edge, and Carrey’s reliable brand of zaniness is controlled enough to balance nicely with Leoni’s more subtle (and woefully underrated) skills as a screen comedienne. And while the “special thanks” end-credits hint at the sharper, more biting satire this might have been, there’s enough fun with Dick and Jane to make this recycled comedy worth a look. –Jeff Shannon

Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events

a-series-of-unfortunate-eventsIf you spliced Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl into a Tim Burtonesque landscape, you’d surely come up with something like Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many critics (in mostly mixed reviews) wondered why Burton didn’t direct this comically morbid adaptation of the first three books in the popular series by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. “Lemony Snicket,” played here by Jude Law and seen only in silhouette) instead of TV and Casper veteran Brad Silberling, but there’s still plenty to recommend the playfully bleak scenario, in which three resourceful orphans thwart their wicked, maliciously greedy relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who subjects them to… well, a series of unfortunate events. Along the way they encounter a herpetologist uncle (Billy Connolly), an anxious aunt (Meryl Streep) who’s afraid of everything, and a variety of fantastical hazards and mysterious clues, some of which remain unresolved. Given endless wonders of art direction, costume design, and cinematography, Silberling’s direction is surprisingly uninspired (in other words, the books are better), but when you add a throwaway cameo by Dustin Hoffman, Law’s amusing narration, and Carrey’s over-the-top antics, the first Lemony movie suggests a promising franchise in the making. –Jeff Shannon

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Screenwriters rarely develop a distinctive voice that can be recognized from movie to movie, but the ornate imagination of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has made him a unique and much-needed cinematic presence. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a guy decides to have the memories of his ex-girlfriend erased after she’s had him erased from her own memory–but midway through the procedure, he changes his mind and struggles to hang on to their experiences together. In other hands, the premise of memory-erasing would become a trashy science-fiction thriller; Kaufman, along with director Michel Gondry, spins this idea into a funny, sad, structurally complex, and simply enthralling love story that juggles morality, identity, and heartbreak with confident skill. The entire cast–Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and more–give superb performances, carefully pitched so that cleverness never trumps feeling. A great movie. –Bret Fetzer

Bruce Almighty

bruce-almightyBestowing Jim Carrey with godlike powers is a ripe recipe for comedy, and Bruce Almighty delivers the laughs that Carrey’s mainstream fans prefer. The high-concept premise finds Carrey playing Bruce Nolan, a frustrated Buffalo TV reporter, stuck doing puff-pieces while a lesser colleague (the hilarious Steven Carell) gets the anchor job he covets. Bruce demands an explanation from God, who pays him a visit (in the serene form of Morgan Freeman) and lets Bruce take over while he takes a brief vacation. What does a petty, angry guy do when he’s God? That’s where Carrey has a field day, reuniting with his Ace Ventura and Liar, Liar director, Tom Shadyac, while Jennifer Aniston gamely keeps pace as Bruce’s put-upon fiancée. Carrey’s actually funnier before he becomes Him, and the movie delivers a sappy, safely diluted notion of faith that lacks the sincerity of the 1977 hit Oh, God! Still, we can be thankful that Carrey took the high road and left Little Nicky to Adam Sandler. –Jeff Shannon

The Majestic

the-majesticThe Majestic is an old-fashioned throwback replete with a 1950s B-script and halcyon values like patriotism, true love, and clean fun. Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) is a Hollywood scriptwriter with a sexy gal, a screenplay under his belt, and his big break on the horizon. But when his name is mistakenly given to the House Un-American Activities Committee, Appleton’s dreams of success in the biz quickly unravel. An ensuing car accident leaves him without a memory but a great opportunity–as a small town’s Luke Trimble, war hero and all-around swell guy, with whom he happens to bear an uncanny physical resemblance. Of course, there’s a beautiful woman (Sandra Sinclair) who waited for his return from the war, an endearing old dad (Martin Landau), and the magical Majestic movie house to renovate and reopen. As Appleton’s memory eventually catches up to him, however, The Majestic veers off toward Mr. Smith Goes to Washington territory, complete with a monologue on the First Amendment. Unfortunately, despite the film’s earnest striving to be Capra-esque and Carrey’s undeniable star quality, the charm is more reminiscent of Ronald Reagan than Jimmy Stewart. –Fionn Meade

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

dr.seus'-how-the-grinch-stole-christmasUnder a thick carpet of green-dyed yak fur and wonderfully expressive Rick Baker makeup, Jim Carrey is up to all of his old tricks (and some nifty new ones) in this live-action movie of Dr. Seuss’s holiday classic. He commands the title role with equal parts madness, mayhem, pathos, and improvisational genius, channeling Grinchness through his own screen persona so smoothly that fans of both Carrey and Dr. Seuss will be thoroughly satisfied. Adding to the fun is a perfectly pitched back-story sequence (accompanied by Anthony Hopkins’s narration) that explains how the Grinch came to hate Christmas, with a heart “two sizes too small.” Ron Howard proves a fine choice for the director’s chair with a keen balance of comedy, sentiment, and light-hearted Seussian whimsy. Production designer Michael Corenblith gloriously realizes the wackiness of Whoville architecture, and his rendition of the Grinch’s Mt. Crumpit lair is a marvel of cartoonish, subterranean grime. Then there’s Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen), the thoughtful imp who rallies her village to recapture the pure spirit of Christmas and melts the gift-stealing Grinch’s cold, cold heart. You’ve even got a dog (the Grinch’s good-natured mongrel, Max) who’s been perfectly cast, so what’s not to like about this dazzling yuletide movie? The production gets a bit overwhelmed by its own ambition, and the citizens of Whoville (including Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Molly Shannon, and Bill Irwin) pale in comparison to Carrey’s inspired lunacy, but who cares? If a movie can unleash Jim Carrey at his finest, revamp the Grinch story, and still pay tribute to the legacy of Dr. Seuss, you can bet it qualifies as rousing entertainment. (Ages 5 and older.) –Jeff Shannon

Me, Myself & Irene

me,myself-and-ireneIn Me, Myself & Irene, Jim Carrey plays Charlie Baileygates, a cop for the best police force in the world (Rhode Island). In denial about his wife’s affair, he’s a nice guy who goes around trying to do the right thing but is taken advantage of every step of the way. Instead of confronting people, he takes the abuse, balls it up, and hides it in the pit of his stomach. His psyche can only take so much, though, and soon his alter-ego Hank pops out to do every libidinous thing Charlie would never do. It’s a great premise for a Jim Carrey film. Unfortunately, it’s not a great Jim Carrey film. Famous for the lowbrow, shock comedies like Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, and There’s Something About Mary, here the Farrelly brothers get lost in a series of lazy gags and an even lazier plot about some evil golf development and the woman, Irene (Renée Zellweger), who needs to be protected because she knows something about it. Some of the jokes hit (there’s a bathroom scene that’s 10 times funnier than the hair-gel gag in There’s Something About Mary), but many more miss. There are some great concepts (his three sons are hip-hop geniuses) that don’t go anywhere (they swear a lot). It’s like the movie itself has a split personality–funny ideas trapped in a less-than-funny film. –Andy Spletzer