Remember “Yes Man”? The 2008 Peyton Reed directed comedy, starring Jim Carrey, in his last great comedic leading role (in my opinion), as Carl — a man who obstinately says “No” to everything until he met a self-help guru who tells him to switch his “No” to “Yes.” This effectively simple word leads to amazing comedy due to Jim Carrey’s commanding lead performance. If you remember and have not seen Yes Man, there is no reason for you to watch Yes Day, an incredibly subpar comedy that takes the “switch your no to yes” premise from Reed’s film and turns it into a brainless family comedy. Jennifer Garner (“Nine Lives”) stars as Allison Torres, a formerly adventurous mom who said “Yes” to everything before the word quickly turned into “No” when her children were born. After Allison and her husband, Carlos (Édgar Ramírez, “Resistance”), were reprimanded at school for being too hard on their children, the school’s counselor (Nat Faxon, “Charlie’s Angels”) recommends them to try a “Yes Day,” where the stern parents will say yes to everything their children want for a period of 24 hours. Mayhem, of course, ensues, but none of it is particularly funny or emotional since the day’s symbolism is supposed to bring the family closer together.
Yes Day is filled with sloppily-written childish humor that’s both painstakingly cringe-worthy and mind-numbingly awkward to watch. There are only a few instances where the childish comedy works, which only comes through Arturo Castro’s (“Snatched”) hilarious supporting role as Officer Jones, a clueless (but incredibly innocent) police officer. The comedic timing involving him and Jennifer Garner is pitch-perfect and more hilarious than anything else that comes before or after his extended cameo. Most of the humor found in Yes Day is full of outdated “trends” of the early-2010s, such as twerking and the Gummy Bear song, which even early tweens/teens could find potentially dull and “past date.” The physical humor also feels inherently obsolete, taking direct inspiration from bad children’s slapstick comedies, most notably Fred Savage’s “Daddy Day Camp.” One sequence in particular, where the Torres family take part in a game of “Kablooey!” feels like it’s taken straight from that film, with all of the horribly-timed slapstick, aesthetic parodies (most notably, Wachowski’s “The Matrix”) and self-centered characters Savage’s film perpetuated.
Speaking of egotism, Yes Day is only filled with self-centered characters who only care about themselves and their own faux-problems. There is nothing remotely interesting regarding Garner, Ramírez, or Jenna Ortega’s (“Insidious: Chapter 2”) characters since they are bathed in their unimportant selfishness throughout the entire film. The film’s framing device is supposed to make the Torres family realize how important the role of a parent is and how being overprotective is a sign of love — yet none of the children characters, who put themselves in dangerously stupid situations because they think they must achieve “independence” as a teenager, deserve any form of sympathy from the audience. The film’s final “emotional” moment, where Allison sings The Four Tops’ Baby I Need Your Loving, at a music festival to find her daughter Katie (Ortega), who thought it was “cool” and “hip” to go at the festival with her friend and total strangers that she never met, falls completely flat on its face because director Miguel Arteta (who previously directed Garner in the chaotic family flick, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) and writer Justin Malen (“Father Figures”) gives no reason for the audience to sympathize with the characters, before this moment. They’re all extremely egocentric and only participate in “Yes Day” to fill some void they have in their self-important bubble.
Allison wants to prove to their children that she’s a “cool mom,” even though saying “no” to potentially dangerous stuff only makes her a good parent, Carlos wants to prove that he, too, can be “strict,” though what’s the fun in that? Katie wants to prove that she can be “independent” (spoiler: She realizes it was a bad idea) by going to the aforementioned festival, and son Nando (Julian Lerner, “Pottersville”) wants to showcase his “science” skills and throw a “sick” party (which was also a bad idea). There’s nothing in the film’s “Yes Day” that is achieved to prove how a closer, more flexible family builds a better relationship between the parents and the children — it’s all about “me, myself and I.” Because of this, Yes Day fails at not only being an entertaining riff on the “Yes!” comedy for families, but completely stumbles when it tries to present a message on family and parenting. The actors do an admirable job, sure, and the film’s cinematography does provide some visually intriguing moments, but it isn’t enough for me (or anyone really) to want to seek it out. You’re much better off watching “Yes Man” instead.