Is The Movie Based on a True Story? How Much Is Real

2008’s Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man may have been adapted from a memoir of the same name, but how much of the movie is based on a real life true story?

2008’s Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man may have been adapted from Danny Wallace’s memoir of the same name, but how much of the movie is based on a real-life true story? Released in 2008, Yes Man was a surprise hit for The Truman Show star Jim Carrey. A return to broad comedy for the rubber-faced actor after a few years of more serious indie hits like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Yes Man told the simple story of a man who opts to say “yes” more often and ends up on the adventure of a lifetime as a result.

Yes Man director Peyton Reed knows his way around a hit comedy, having gone on to direct the MCU movies Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, but Yes Man suffered critically as many reviewers felt that the movie’s predictable plot skewed too close to the earlier Carrey hit Liar Liar. But the big difference is (or should be) that Yes Man is based on Danny Wallace’s real-life memoir, so how did the movie’s retelling of a true story end up feeling like that earlier fantasy-tinged comedy?

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The answer lies in the fact that Yes Man not only bends the truth here and there, but outright rewrites the bestselling 2005 memoir that it is loosely based on, and unfortunately loses a lot of believability in the process. It’s a shame, too, as the book that the movie is based on by British author Danny Wallace has a pretty interesting story of its own. Some of the more outlandish elements of Yes Man really did happen (according to Wallace’s account), but even the sequences that were real were altered for their inclusion in the movie.


First and foremost, the movie version of Yes Man sees Carrey’s character convinced to say “yes” to any and all opportunities by a somewhat sleazy motivational speaker who is vaguely implied (until the movie’s ending) to control his luck. In reality, Wallace actually decided to take the advice from a random woman he came across on the bus, who casually told him to say “yes” more without realizing he’d commit to 6 months of no “no’s” as a result. Furthermore, although there’s some romance here and there, there’s no central love interest in Wallace’s book, nor was he ever arrested for impulsively hopping on a plane at the last minute. Finally, the movie added some zany Carrey antics to please Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty fans, so it probably won’t surprise many readers to discover that no, Danny Wallace never did save a man from jumping to his death by serenading the unfortunate soul with Third Eye Blind’s nineties hit “Jumper”.

So with so many half-truths and fictional additions to Yes Man’s source material, how much of the movie was based in reality? Well, Wallace’s 6-month experiment did really earn him an impressive promotion, it did see him leave the country on a spur of the moment adventure, and he really did say “yes” when asked “are you looking for a fight?” by an annoyed nightclub patron. However, the true story of that particular encounter is actually more surreal and funny, if less dramatic and cinematic, than the movie version — where Jim Carrey’s character gets punched in the face for his troubles, the real Wallace actually avoided the fight since his potential attacker was taken off guard and scared away by the columnist’s blithe, bizarre reply. It’s exactly that sort of interesting anecdote that plays well in the more understated original memoir Yes Man, but was too exaggerated and silly when adapted for the big screen and resulted in a muddled movie that somewhat missed the point of its source material.

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Updated: November 4, 2020 — 8:58 pm

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