The Yes Men are expert pranksters who prove that ridicule is a viable method of political commentary. At least most of the time.
Their first feature documentary was simply called “The Yes Men,” a frequently hilarious account of how they punked corporations into believing their ruses. Think of them as Ashton Kutcher with a political agenda.
Despite the grander title of their second feature, “The Yes Men Fix the World,” this movie’s more of the same. Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano are still setting up their bogus Web sites and parading into corporate conferences pretending to be people they’re not.
These Web sites are so authentic-looking that corporations and TV news networks blindly invite Bichlbaum and Bonnano (under a variety of colorful aliases) to participate in their activities.
One of the film’s big pranks puts Bichlbaum on a live BBC news broadcast around the anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster. Pretending to be a spokesman for Dow Chemical (which owns Union Carbide, whose pesticide plant leaked and killed thousands), Bichlbaum announced that the company was ending decades of legal wrangling by giving away $12 billion in compensation to the victims of the 1984 gas leak.
Dow’s stock price promptly plummeted by $2 billion or so, the hoax was exposed , and the Yes Men were taken to task for toying with the feelings of Bhopal residents. But when they travel to India, locals are wryly amused by the prank — which at least brought attention to an issue that had fallen off the front pages.
In a much goofier stunt, the Yes Men construct a “Survivaball” suit, designed for wearing in case of disaster. This thing looks like the mascot get-up for a football team called the Blobs, but a roomful of Halliburton representatives watch a demonstration of the Survivaball’s qualities with straight faces. (It is not known whether Dick Cheney owns one for his personal use.)
In their most deviously funny bit, Bichlbaum and Bonnano appear at a corporate conference as Exxon researchers who have found a way to transform human remains into long-lasting, energy-efficient biofuel.
They’ve handed out samples of this new fuel as candles to the gathered convention-goers, whose faces curdle as they are told what went into them.
The Yes Men never lose track of their serious point, despite the craziness: if you follow a certain kind of corporate thinking to its logical end, then issues such as using corpses for fuel or re-instating human slavery become perfectly logical.
And they hope viewers will be appalled by that. “Yes Men Fix the World” isn’t quite as consistently funny as the team’s first film and the initial surprise of their shtick has worn off. But their purpose comes across loud and clear.
Bonus event: Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum will appear at evening screenings of the film at the Northwest Film Forum, tonight through Sunday. Presumably as himself.
“The Yes Men Fix the World” ½
Another feature documentary from the team of pranksters known as the Yes Men. Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano specialize in fooling corporations into inviting them to give outlandishly absurd presentations at conferences — the better to point out the absurdity of corporate practices. This one’s not as consistently funny as the first “Yes Men” film, but their point still comes across.
Rated: Not rated, probably PG-13 for subject matter
Showing: Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle
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