The Yes Men Are Revolting review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The Yes Men have been having a laugh at tinkering with the press machine to change the world. But have they? The duo of Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno have been pulling these media stunts for over a decade now. They’ve gotten older, spawned relationships and find themselves conflicted and weary of their continuing antics. While they still have a strong enough finger to satirize the insanity of corporations and politics in the 24-hour news machines, The Yes Men Are Revolting is much more personal in how it questions the legitimacy of their stunts and what place they have in today’s world.
Their focus this time around is on climate change, taking aim at oil companies and energy lobbies. The Yes Men come out swinging hard by introducing a new suit to prepare humans for the effects of global warming. Based on the rising sea levels, the bulky suits that resemble giant cow udders are built to be floatable. So, naturally, the Yes Men demonstrate them at the lake just outside a climate conference. The media films them, the cops call them onshore and some great opening footage of bobbing blob suits is filmed. It seems as though the Yes Men are back in form, but the truth is that they’re getting rusty.
As they struggle to continue their performance art pieces to bring attention to climate change, several new problems present themselves. Mike now has a wife and kids which has made coordinating these bits all the more tough. Andy finds himself frustrated as Mike makes several mistakes in their stunts when collaborating. The kid aspect annoys Andy so much that Mike actually keeps the birth of his next child a secret from his partner as he knew it would anger him.
Their creativity begins to wear thin as one skit becomes a major dud. To bring focus to the shameless energy practices of Russia, the two stage an actor to portray an oil executive that donates a polar bear to a Russian zoo. Unfortunately, the actors are too amateur and the polar bear is too fake. The crowd can spot that this is a prank and not a very good one as they silently disperse. If the failed act doesn’t dampen their spirits, the constant news reports of depleting environmentalism amid corporate greed.
The overwhelming forces against Andy and Mike in the form of being sued and easily discovered really put a damper on their antics. The good news is that the fire hasn’t gone out and a few of their bits do take off for the better. An oil conference turns into an amusing mess when a replica oil platform meant for dispensing refreshments spews forth onto an actor. An energy convention finds the duo being able to convince a panel room full of energy executives to dance around the room while singing. It’s not their best work and maybe not as far reaching, but at least the Yes Men have found some hope for a cause that seems incredibly daunting for their performance arts practices.
At the same time, I wish that the Yes Men would step up their tactics to become the real game changers they want to be. Staging phony junkets and panels is fun for causing a stir and turning heads, but doesn’t quite generate the change they seek. After convincing a bunch of energy executives to dance their dance and embrace alternative sources, they leave with little more than hope that they made a difference.
The Yes Men Are Revolting has some thoughtful laughs, but ends up being sadder than anything else the way these boys have outgrown their act. With all their knowledge and skill in manipulating the media for their causes, you’d think that they’d have more to offer than a dopey polar bear costume. If they really don’t want to feel so down on themselves for a world they can hardly dent, they need to move on and take a bigger step forward for their ideals. If not, they’ll just be little more than the humorous gentlemen that crack jokes outside government and corporate institutions.