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DVD Review: The Yes Men Fix the World

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Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum are two well-intentioned individuals who manage to stir up a storm of terrible news for various corporations in an effort to highlight some bad things that are happening in our world. On the strength of one press conference they caused Dow Chemical stock to plunge two billion dollars. The judgment is subjective, though. Some can argue that Dow Chemical caused Dow Chemical stock to plunge two billion.

What Bonanno and Bichlbaum did is astounding; we wonder what luck has saved them from becoming one of the disappeared. They created a phony Dow Chemical website and waited. When the site received an invitation to participate in a BBC program commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, they accepted the invitation. They flew to France, and in a satellite interview in front of 300 million people, Bichlbaum (posing as a Dow spokesman) said that Dow was accepting all responsibility for Bhopal, and would be putting 12 billion dollars into clean-up and medical aid. (Union Carbide was originally responsible for Bhopal, but Dow bought them out—responsibilities and all.)

Mike and Andy’s purpose had not actually been to cause an en masse dumping of Dow stock, but to showcase the fact that, after 20 years, nothing had been done to clean up Bhopal, and that thousands of Indians were sick, deformed, and dying as a result of that long-ago “gas leak.” They were reminding Dow Chemical—and the world—of Dow’s responsibility. Their message went viral before Dow disclaimed it.

The Yes Men Fix the World is the story of this fraud heard ‘round the world and a number of others Bonanno and Bichlbaum perpetrated. Their target is the free market and, like Michael Moore’s, capitalism. They pose at an oil industry conference as representatives of Exxon, there to introduce a new fuel, vivoleum, which is made from the remains of global warming losers (i.e., bodies of people whose deaths were caused by the same elements as global warming). They went so far as to design a candle that gave off a putrid odor which they handed out at the dinner where they introduce vivoleum.

Several other scams include the introduction of a program that will allow manufacturers to predict how many deaths will result from the introduction of a new product (people were interested); an all-disaster bubble suit that people who could afford them could don in case of a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or bio-chemical attack; a HUD initiative that would return homes in New Orleans to the poor, rather than destroy the buildings and redesign the neighborhoods; and printing and distributing 80,000 copies of a faux New York Times that reported wonderful news about the end of war, health care, education, and the economy.

The Yes Men Fix the World has the feel of a Michael Moore documentary. Irony, graphics, feigned naiveté, and sweeping generalizations characterize much of the film. Bonanno and Bichlbaum do an excellent job of portraying large corporations (ones they admit they don’t like) as conscienceless bloodsuckers devoid of any moral worth. They also spend a lot of money and time setting up their hoaxes. Amusing presentations are prepared, many with animation, and they not only create web sites to pull in the unwary, but also provide themselves with the props necessary to carry off their stunts. They design and manufacture prototypes and travel worldwide to attend various conferences and summits.

The film audience laughs at their corporate audiences—industry members who are presented with ghastly facts that are twisted to provide a “free market” opportunity. Some of their victims react in mild disbelief at something a presenter (Andy or Mike) may say, but listen with interest as they learn exactly how bad things can help them turn a profit.

The Yes Men Fix the World makes a number of interesting and valid comments regarding moral relativity, and this documentary can do more than entertain. It has a resolutely biased point of view, but those who disagree, yet aren’t incensed, will find these large-scale pranks humorous. Those who are incensed will wonder why these two men are still alive to tell their stories.

Included with The Yes Men Fix the World are 26 minutes of deleted scenes, 69 minutes of additional actions and videos, trailers, and filmmaker bios. The “additional actions and videos” are “The Horribly Stupid Stunt (Which Has Resulted in His Untimely Death),” “Captain Euro—Making Europe Fun and Interesting,” “RTMark: Bringing It to You,” “The Most Serious Game-McDonald’s Spawns Revolution,” and “Making (Up) News.” One thing that is clear in both the extras and The Yes Men Fix the World is that people who attend conferences aren’t paying particular attention to anything that is being said. The Yes Men make ghoulish comments, repulsive jokes, and ridiculous claims, yet their audiences (for the most part) seem to be paying attention and accepting all their hooey as typical corporate bull-throwing. As demonstrated most clearly in “The Horribly Stupid Stunt (Which Has Resulted in His Untimely Death),” very little of what is presented is absorbed.

The Yes Men are inventive and sometimes hilarious in devising their stunts, and they make their various points well (to the documentary audience). They adopt a look that says corporate nobody/everyman, allowing them to blend into the situations they invade. Whether agreeing with the points they make or not, we are entertained by their sheer bravado.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent The Yes Men Fix the World? Yes. Appropriately, it will be released April 1.

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