RATING |

In the annals of the affirmative, the Jim Carrey vehicle

Yes Man

doesn't quite pack the punch of, say, Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can" or the closing monologue of James Joyce's

Ulysses

. Nor does it spring quite as high as Carrey's own

Bruce Almighty

or

Liar Liar

.

But it bounces. And given the gloom of this season's holiday releases it is positively cheering just to see a character turn his frown upside down.

Carrey plays Carl Allen, a drone of a loan officer at a Los Angeles bank, so down that depression looks like up to him.

He has been immune to fun since his wife, Stephanie (Molly Sims), decamped two years ago. Carl routinely denies all loan applications, drinks with his buddies, and invitations to his boss' parties (which, conveniently for the film's studio, are theme events based on Warner Brothers releases Harry Potter and 300).

Carl's only companion is the DVD he falls asleep to.

Then he bumps into an old friend, Nick (John Michael Higgins, reliable laugh inducer), as lively as Carl is a killjoy. What's Nick's secret? A motivational speaker named Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp), who preaches the power of positive thinking. Thus Carl, who closed himself off from new experiences by saying no to everything, opens himself up by saying yes. To everyone, including the bum who asks for his wallet.

What ensues is formulaic, but diverting, as Carl finds himself in situations where he meets a hottie performance artist, Allison (Zooey Deschanel), learns to pilot an airplane, studies Korean, and generally finds joy where he formerly encountered fear.

Carrey, an actor who is deft at the extremes of behavior but seems to have no middle range (he's like a car that works only in first and fifth gears), effortlessly mood-swings from subdued to exuberant.

Like many previous Carrey vehicles, the point of this one directed by Peyton Reed is that one should not live at the extremes, but should achieve a balance between low and high, no and yes.

Yes Man's conclusion is foregone. But, like the motivational speaker says, life is about the journey rather than the destination. This is a movie that makes a weekend getaway to Lincoln, Nebraska, feel like a joyride.

Yes Man **1/2

Directed by Peyton Reed, written by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, based on the book by Danny Wallace, photography by Robert D. Yeoman, distributed by Warner Brothers. With Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (brief nudity, sexual innuendo)

Showing at: area theatersEndText

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/