(directors: Chris Smith/Dan Ollman/Sarah Price; cinematographer: Chris Smith/Dan Ollman; editor: Dan Ollman; music: Joe Wong; cast: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno; Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Chris Smith/Sarah Price; MGM Home Entertainment; 2003)

“Uproarious subversive documentary that targets the World Trade Organization.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Co-directors Chris Smith, Sarah Price and Dan Ollman present this uproarious subversive documentary that targets the World Trade Organization. Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum are two enterprising pranksters who created a web site in 1999 to mock George W. Bush and his hypocrisy as he mounts his run for the presidency and follow that with a web site that looked as if they were members of the World Trade Organization. As a result, the so-called Yes Men were mistaken for legit spokesmen and received invites to the organization’s meetings and even appeared undetected on CNBC Marketwrap Europe. The clean-cut, suited young men were poker-faced posers who pull off a number of pranks that allow them to say the most atrocious things in behalf of the WTO and get plenty of publicity through the publishing media but no reaction from those WTO invitees attending their serious economic lectures and the press, for the most part, never calls them out as frauds. The idea of their collegiate prank is to say the most outrageous things that take the WTO policies one step further into an extremist position while basing it on current reality. How effective their satirical protests are remain to be seen, but it seems to me in the very least they do raise political consciousness and awareness of the unethical sweatshops the big corporations maintain in undeveloped countries.

The two most delicious pranks include a textile conference in Finland, where Andy emerged from his business suit in a gold lamé body hugging outfit with a giant phallus having on its tip a small tv screen built into it so the boss can spy on his workers who have a chip implanted in their shoulder that allows them to receive an electrical-shock if they slack off (the superhero-like outfit is called a “Management Leisure Suit”) and a talk in Plattsburgh, New York, to a mostly student crowd, about the corporations answer to beating the world starvation problem is to recycle human defecation into hamburgers for Third World Countries. Their straight-faced presentation uses 3D animation revealing how waste becomes food and by handing out free hamburgers to make it look like McDonald’s is backing this project as another money-maker to exploit the poor. This talk, as expected, arouses an angry response from the audience.

Their web site labels the Yes Men as a “genderless, loose-knit association of some 300 impostors worldwide,” but the film focuses only on the funny and noteworthy antics of Andy and Mike. The smarty-pants activists may be the modern-day version of hippie prankster Abbie Hoffman. But whatever you might think of their methods, they do provide a public service by exposing that the WTO’s globalization plan is a fraud that does not help the have-nots get a helping hand as promised.

The Yes Men Poster

REVIEWED ON 10/21/2009 GRADE: A-