out of Five
Running time: 85
Engaging, provocative and frequently very funny documentary that also features a subtle but shocking observation about the media and their collusion with big business.
What's it all about?
The Yes Men (Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano) are two political pranksters whose modus operandi involves posing as top executives of corporations they hate and then delivering ridiculous or outrageous speeches to captive audiences. The film opens with Andy posing as a representative of Dow Chemical and giving an interview on BBC Worldwide in which he promises that, after 20 years of denial, Dow will clean up the site of the Bhopal Catastrophe (result: egg on face for Dow, $2 billion wiped off their stock value).
Other pranks include: telling a New Orleans audience that the Housing and Urban Development body (HUD) will let the city's poor people return to their former public housing, which HUD had been tearing down; and banding together with other groups to produce a hoax issue of the New York Times filled with good news headlines such as “Iraq War Ends” and “George Bush Indicted For Treason.”
Bichlbaum and Bonnano (who narrates throughout) make a likeable and engaging pair and there are several big laughs in the film. A particular highlight involves them asking various capitalist pundits to describe what they'd like on their greenscreen backgrounds – one describes “men, acting freely and following their desires” and ends up with... well, you can probably guess.
Some of the pranks are markedly more successful than others (to their credit, they acknowledge their bad ideas), but it's still shocking, for example, to see how many people line up to take their cards for their Golden Skeleton human cost assessment formula.
However, although the film never actually mentions it, it's impossible to watch this and not be shocked by the blatantly biased coverage their pranks receive in the mainstream media – even our own Jon Snow asks Bichlbaum if he ever felt sorry for the victims of Bhopal rather than confronting Dow about their responsibilities. Tellingly, the people the media tries to paint as the victims of their hoaxes (people in Bhopal, New Orleans residents) are shown to be actually delighted with the pranks and to understand the intention behind them.
The Yes Men Fix The World is an engaging, thought-provoking and frequently funny documentary that deserves to be seen. Recommended.
The Yes Men Fix The World