Yes Men

on September 24, 2004 by Bridget Byrne
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"The Yes Men" is a trail-along documentary in which the filmmakers capture what footage they can and then cobble it together. Its main force lies in the witty audacity of The Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, who utilize satire to fight the corporate-think they view as polluting the world. Having established a website that so closely mimics the World Trade Organization's own site that it's often mistaken for the real thing, the pranksters find themselves invited to lecture on world trade issues and discuss relevant topics on international television.

The documentary follows the political activists to various corners of the globe where, with the aid of thrift shop versions of business suits, makeshift costumes and visual presentations, they manage to fool presumably bright-minded people into accepting the theories they present as being genuine World Trade Organization policies.

It is both hilarious and depressing to witness how their audiences either fail completely or take too much time to recognize the performance artist antics as faux. That's because, like true jesters, The Yes Men are essentially laying bare the real truth behind the euphemisms of WTO goals, which they believe are designed to exploit the poor by creating a slave society to benefit the rich. A gold leisure suit with a telescreen phallus extension is presented as an innovative way for an idle boss to keep tabs on his hard laborers. Attendees at a textile conference in Finland don't see anything odd in that. However, the concept of recycled human waste served up as hamburgers does eventually prompt outrage from a class of American university students, who have been treated to free burgers at the pranksters' lecture.

The filmmakers aren't interested in being objective, but merely in advancing the subjects' cause by chronicling The Yes Men's clever form of protest. The film's structure leaves many unanswered questions, but doesn't get in the way of both laughs and/or outrage--depending on where viewers' political sympathies lie. Another better-known prankster, "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore, is included in the footage as a talking head. His presence doesn't add anything too useful to the whole, beyond, perhaps, being an obvious plus in this film's ability to gain theatrical distribution. Starring Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. Directed by Chris Smith, Dan Ollman and Sarah Price. Produced by Chris Smith and Sarah Price. A United Artists release. Documentary. Rated R for language. Running time: 83 min

Tags: documentary, comedy, political, business, satire, prank, stunt, McDonald's, Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Chris Smith, Dan Ollman, Sarah Price
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