Docurama // 2010 // 87 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge Marco Duran (Retired) // April 1st, 2010
Sometimes it takes a lie to expose the truth
In 2003's The Yes Men, the original film by Yes Men Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, they 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 up a mirror and show the corporations their own greed, and maybe even make a difference. Now, with a sequel of sorts, The Yes Men Fix the World, they have gotten much better at getting people to think they represent companies they really do not.
The Yes Men take a page from Sasha Baron Cohen and another page from Michael Moore in order to pull off their elaborate pranks on large corporations. In the first of the four hoaxes shown in this film, Andy Bichlbaum, through yet another false website, gets invited to go on the BBC as a spokesperson for DOW. The reason for his invitation is that it was the anniversary of the worse industrial disaster in history, a disaster DOW is responsible for -- the Bhopal catastrophe.
For those who don't know, in 1984 a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India released 42 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas into the air exposing more then 500,000 people to the toxin and killing over 25,000 people from related diseases. DOW purchased Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the faulty plant, in 2001. Neither company has ever 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 fund to help those still suffering, one would expect people to celebrate the fact that someone is finally doing the right thing. Instead DOW's stock dropped $2 billion dollars in one day. When it's finally discovered that the man who came on the BBC to make that announcement was only masquerading as a spokesperson from DOW, and in fact had no credentials whatsoever, you can imagine the seesaw of emotions that it sparked. The emotions not only from the stock holders of DOW affected by the lie, but also the people in Bhopal who thought they were going to finally get bailed out.
It's an unfortunate side effect of their mischief, but 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 than 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.
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 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 to 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, I suppose, the next best thing to actually getting a point across, however unfocused it may be.
The Yes Men Fix the World has very good production values for a documentary. Lately, it has looked like documentaries 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. The sound is also great, considering that a documentary doesn't scream surround sound. 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 for those uneducated about such things.
Guilty of not accomplishing a thing, let alone fixing the world.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated
* Deleted Scenes