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Jim Carrey plays role that suits him in "Yes Man'

Yes Man

(PG-13)

3 stars out of 4

In the world of Hollywood, years can seem like decades and it feels that long since Jim Carrey has been a really hot property. Earlier this year, he voiced the lead in "Horton Hears a Who," but most people didn't see it because of him. In 2003, there was "Bruce Almighty," but his character had to compete with God (Morgan Freeman).

It might be unfair to say that Carrey is in desperate need of a hit, but he took no up-front salary for "Yes Man" and will instead settle for a slice of the back end. A risky move but considering his iffy competition this weekend and the reaction of the audience at the preview screening, Carrey should wind up in the black.

Not since the first "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar" or "The Mask" has Carrey landed a role that so suits his physical/broad comedy talents. Best of all, he doesn't try too hard. Although initially a negative/downer type, Carrey's character Carl is ultimately a likeable guy and is mostly devoid of the sometimes obnoxious by-products that often compete with his affable charms.

Regularly blowing off his friends, hating his job as a loan officer and still not over his divorce from Stephanie (Molly Sims), Carl is in need of a swift kick in the pants. After a chance meeting with an old friend, he drags himself to a motivational gathering where a New-Age type guru (Terence Stamp)

gives Carl his one-word

salvation: yes.

Say "Yes" to every question or request for a year - no matter how far fetched or outlandish - and life will change for the better. Say "No" and karma will quickly come back to haunt you. It takes a little while, but Carl eventually gets with the program.

He meets the angular and gorgeous Allison (Zooey Deschanel), gets a promotion and is back in good graces with his buddies. Along the way, Carl has to suffer through some slings, arrows and body blows but when he pauses on his most important "Yes," things

start backsliding.

The mostly unimpressive director Peyton Reed turns in his best work to date largely by keeping Carrey on a short leash and never letting the pace lag. Three screenwriters (adapting Danny Wallace's book) are able to tie in every seemingly insignificant early detail into something that will make sense later and while some of the jokes aren't all golden, few of them lack resonance. That's a pretty difficult challenge for any comedy and after watching this one, it's relatively safe to assume that first the script and then the final cut were very carefully trimmed.

Given its need to appeal to a wide audience, the filmmakers include a few characters and situations that seem present only for shock value and Warner Bros. is guilty for some blatantly obvious placement of their own back catalogue. Also, it is never clear whether the story takes place in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

No matter; these are minor distractions. The movie clocks in at less than two hours and never wears out its welcome. You'll get your money's worth and a little more. For a holiday rom-com, that's a very good deal. (Warner Bros.)