The Yes Men Are Revolting

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 12, 2015

Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno star in 'The Yes Men Are Revolting'
Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno star in 'The Yes Men Are Revolting'  

Sometimes you have to wonder whether The Yes Men -- a corporation-rankling prankster duo comprised of kindred spirits Jacques Serven (a.k.a. Andy Bichlbaum) and Igor Vamos (a.k.a. Mike Bonanno) -- might be certifiable. But then you see their latest film, "The Yes Men Are Revolting," and have a look around at the absolute insanity that constitutes driving the planet past the point of being able to sustain life as we know it, and what they're doing makes absolute sense.

What Bichlbaum and Bonanno do is upend the business model of exploitation, ruination, and reckless greed that global monied interests pursue, and then exploit the outrageous, and sometimes hilarious, results for media coverage. They pose as corporate and government officials, call fake press conferences, and set up spoof websites that cut the quick of their acerbic observations, all in the name of making a point and getting people to take their message seriously by making them laugh. A couple of examples: The Yes Men set up a fake website in the name of one polluting business entity and promise fun, colorful inhalers to kids, in order to make childhood asthma "cool." Then there's the spoof in which they sucker the media into believing that McDonald's is offering a free Happy Meal to anyone who has been racially profiled three times by New York City cops.

In the new film, the duo take on climate change and the profiteers who continue to deny that it's a real and pressing problem while they line their pockets. Not surprisingly, their attentions fall mostly on big oil -- but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce comes for its share of their creative brand of rebellion. (The U.S. Chamber of Commerce responds by filing suit against the Yes Men. You have to sit through the credits to see how that all plays out... and in fact, the outcome is suitably farcical, for reasons that can only be called cynical.)

Though the Yes Men have built their strategy on the basis of humor, not everything is pranks and roses. They frequently feel depressed or mired in futility. They also have personal lives, which they fret about neglecting as they pursue their work. Bonanno moves to Scotland, where he and his wife have a third child; he breaks the news to Bichlbaum only after the new baby arrives. It seems that Bichlbaum, who is gay, isn't the most supportive friend when it comes to family issues.

Not that Bichlbaum doesn't also have his share of relationship angst; early in the film, his boyfriend dumps him. Then there's the small but significant fact that when the Yes Men travel, they have to be mindful about where the are with respect to Bichlbaum's homosexuality. When they head to Uganda, where climate change has impacted agriculture in a big way, there's an awkward but brave conversation about it with some of the locals.

This film is a slice of recent history layer cake, with the Yes Men punking the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference Con 15, creating their own Occupy Wall Street protest march (a "Brokers and Cops March"), and getting caught up in the real life drama of Hurricane Sandy, which sweeps into the film as though to underscore their environmental message. By the time they snooker a room full of defense contractors at a Homeland Security conference into donning parodistic headbands and doing a fake Native American dance, you start to believe there's no crevice of this corrupt and failing civilization they cannot infiltrate.


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.