Returning for a second feature-length tilt at gleefully executing anti-corporate hoaxes, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno follow up the inflatable penis suit and feces-generated fast food of The Yes Men with a little more showbiz (staged comic interludes in their debris-filled “underground headquarters”) to prank unsuspecting business conferees with fraudulent rollouts of a bulbous rubber survival cocoon (ostensibly from Halliburton) and a new energy source: candles made from the flesh of a gallant, industrially-poisoned Exxon janitor. Proving repeatedly that a passable wardrobe and camera-ready clichés can get them into any chair normally reserved for experts and bureaucrats, the Yes Men most satisfyingly bring temporary but unaccustomed chaos through a BBC News interview where Bichlbaum’s offer of Dow Chemical billions to treat victims of the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster sends the company’s stock plunging; the post-catastrophic “SurvivaBall” garb draws straight-faced questions about marketability and long-term wear; and a New York Times print parody exploits Obama-victory ecstasy by trumpeting headlines of instant Iraq withdrawal and sweeping progressive reforms. (This climactic project, though accurately conceived and read as a “dream paper,” may have dated fastest of all.)
Even more so than in the previous film, The Yes Men Fix the World indulges in faux-naïve disappointment that, after garnering priceless double-takes of white-collar audiences confronted with the “Golden Skeleton” of monetary human-life calculus or the hypothesis that global warming can be as positively transformative as the Black Plague was in clearing the decks for the Renaissance, the duo hasn’t shamed The Man into changing his deregulated, market-dictated ways. Given that Bichlbaum and Bonanno aren’t above funny cheap shots like green-screening Tom of Finland art behind a solemn Milton Friedman-school economist, their exposure of ossified free-market mindsets seems more in line with their skills than a call to activism against a global capitalist oligarchy. Careful to elicit blessings upon their deceptions from the downtrodden, be they health activists in Bhopal or the post-Katrina poor being squeezed out in money-mad New Orleans reconstruction plans, the Yes Men ultimately admit to “failure” to fix the world except in the pages of their utopian Times, but their true success comes in discovering a Gulf Coast-rehab expo where the only shelters being marketed are yurts from Kyrgyzstan, or in getting a climate-change skeptic to offer, “Cold-related deaths will decrease significantly.”
The Yes Men Fix the World premieres June 24 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival 2009. Click here for screening information.