Andy and Mike began a career of high-level pranksterism with “gwbush.com,” a subversive clone of Dubya’s own Web site. Soon enough the dastardly duo received cease-and-desist letters, which they mailed to the press, grabbing headlines. Andy and Mike followed this effort with a nearly identical spoof of the World Trade Organization’s site; somehow the venture landed them invitations to speaking engagements all over the world as officially sanctioned WTO representatives. Such guerrilla stunts — reminiscent of the famed tactics of “Da Ali G Show” — are the focus of The Yes Men.
In the film, Andy and Mike come appallingly close to convincing an entire audience of investors that a gold polyester comic book costume, complete with inflatable phallus, can help with the “improvement” of Third-World slave labor. Posing as WTO agents, the duo introduces an auditorium full of college students to the concept of recycling our digested Big Macs as “Re-Burgers,” as a feasible and profitable solution to world hunger.
The last set piece, in which the pair brazenly infiltrates an Australian conference to announce the resignation and apology of the WTO, is rewarding yet not quite the finale the film needs. The Aussie media buy the proclamation hook, line and sinker. So, is the press gullible or are Andy and Mike really that shrewd?
In between scenes of the irrepressible agitators raging against the WTO machine, the audience is plagued with endless detail on the preparations leading to the stunt. Quite honestly, the film drags.
The Yes Men owes a huge debt to Michael Moore, who appears in the film, and going further back, to the Situationist International. Were they an older and more established outfit, there would be more meat on this film’s bones. As it is, the ratio of prank preparation and prank execution is far off balance. The Yes Men points out that neither of the provocateurs is rich or particularly well-connected, and serves as an encouragement to the audience to create their own spectacles. There’s no denying the film’s subversive power.
Taken simply as an entertainment, the film offers up a sufficient amount of ideas and laughter, padded as it may be.
Showing at the Main Art Theater, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak. Call 248-263-2111.
Gene Gregorits writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].