Oct 22, 2009 11:00 PM EST

HBO's The Yes Men Fix The World

HBO's The Yes Men Fix The World
In 2003's The Yes Men, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum set up a website mimicking and lampooning the World Trade Organization, a corporation they oppose. Their website, however, was mistaken for the real thing and they were invited to speak at important meetings and functions as representatives for WTO. They decided to use the opportunity to hold a mirror up and show the corporations their own greed and hopefully make a difference. Now, with The Yes Men Fix the World, a sequel of sorts, they have gotten much better at getting people to think they represent companies they do not. 
The Yes Men take a page from Sasha Baron Cohen and a page from Michael Moore to turn in their elaborate pranks on large corporations. In the first of four hoaxes shown in this film, Andy gets invited to go on the BBC as a spokesperson for DOW. The reason for his invitation is that it is the anniversary of the worse industrial disaster in history, a disaster DOW is responsible for, the Bhopal catastrophe. For those of you who do not know, in 1984 a Union Carbide pesticide plant released 42 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas exposing more then 500,000 people to the toxic gas and killing over 25,000 people from gas related diseases. Union Carbide was purchased by DOW in 2001. Neither company has taken any responsibility for what happened in Bhopal. The pesticide plant still stands today, unusable and leaching poisonous chemicals into the drinking water of the surrounding cities. So when a spokesperson from DOW goes on the BBC and announces that DOW plans to take responsibility for Bhopal and is setting up a $12 billion dollar fund to help those still suffering and their families, one would expect people to celebrate that someone is finally doing the right thing. Instead DOW's stock drops $2 billion dollars. When it's discovered that the man who came on the BBC to make that announcement was actually masquerading as a spokesperson from DOW and had no credentials whatsoever, you can imagine the seesaw of emotions, not only from the stock holders of DOW but also from the people in Bhopal who thought they were going to finally get bailed out. It is an unfortunate side effect of their mischief that Mike and Andy bestow false hope upon the people they are trying to help. Of course, they find some people to put in front of the camera who say that some hope is better then no hope and that recognition has finally been brought to their problem, but you still feel bad that, at the end of the day, nothing was really accomplished by all of Mike and Andy's tomfoolery.
This documentary has very good production value for a documentary. Lately, it has felt and looked like documentaries have had severely low budgets. As if the filmmakers felt their point was so strong it would carry the all of emotional weight and that setting up a stationary camera with a few talking heads was the best they could do to get their point across. Here, they go far and above just using talking heads. There are lots of superfluous and well-constructed shots, cartoons and computer graphics added in to make a point and often also for a laugh. Alas, there is the rub and one of the major problems with the way this social commentary is set up. The tone is entertaining and often the humor is very tongue-in-cheek, which then takes some of the seriousness out of the problems they are discussing. When they are talking about and showing all the displaced people in New Orleans, it's almost given to the audience as an aside when instead it should be pulling on our heartstrings. The filmmakers should know that the most effective way to get people up in arms, to make a change and a difference, is to have them feel pity or empathy for the victims. However they seem too caught up in their own cleverness to bother with those types of things. On top of that, their Saturday morning Beakman's World approach at explaining complex theories and topics such as "Free Market" and "The Kyoto Protocol" do not work nor thoroughly explain the concepts enough for those uneducated about such things to follow what they are discussing.
There are four different corporations they spoof; DOW, Exxon, Haliburton and The New York Times. The connecting tissue between each of these escapades is often nothing but a fairly thin segue making them feel more like four different and distinct pranks instead of a point or a cause they are trying to push and follow through to the end. Every time they get in front of an audience they try a different tactic to garner a response; first horror, then tastelessness and finally ridicule. They want to shock their audience awake yet each time they get the same response, a gentle malaise followed by apathy. The cause of their failure is in the movie itself - what's shocking to outsiders is normal to insiders. They seem be unable to grasp this and ultimately, the title The Yes Men Fix the World is a serious case of false advertisement. Their efforts, however valiant, do not have the effect on the people they intended because no matter how brightly you shine a light on the problem, changes will not be made if the corporations refuse to look or see no problem with what's being done. Making a film about their antics and showing us, the consumers and sometimes the victims of corporate greed, what is really happening is apparently the next best thing to getting their point, however unfocused it many be, across.

Rating - C

FlickDirect Movie Reviewer Marco Duran
Marco Duran, Reviewer
Marco wrote, directed and produced the feature film Within. He has lived in the Los Angeles area his whole life.You can follow his 140 character movie reviews on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

Favorite Films: Fight Club, The Fountain, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Oldboy, Pulp Fiction, Children of Men, City of God, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Shawshank Redemption, Memento
Favorite Directors: Spike Jonze, Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese
Favorite Composers: Clint Mansell, James Newton Howard, John Willimas, Howard Shore

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