Prankster duo The Yes Men fight the powers that be in a rematch 

Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum, the merry pranksters of late capitalism, have returned in The Yes Men Fix the World because the world still needs fixing—even after their previous cinematic outing, which was simply titled The Yes Men. That 2003 doc, co-directed by Chris Smith (American Movie), introduced many filmgoers to this dynamic duo, whose antics within the halls of corporate and governmental power are outrageous precisely because they initially avert outrage. Their modus operandi is to impersonate some institutional shill at a highly public function, then carry the institution's socio-econo-political position to its logical extension—stark raving cold-blooded lunacy.

While there is indeed a high degree of irony in the team's chosen moniker, it also relays a significant degree of truth. The Yes Men are able to (for example) infiltrate a textile conference in Finland posing as members of a World Trade Organization task force. Once at the podium, they use the occasion essentially to advocate slavery for the developing world—and no one bats an eyelash. Bichlbaum and Bonanno can mimic the empty jargon and gestures of privilege that are high bureaucracy's stock in trade. They win, in a sense, because everybody else is "faking it" too—only with very real results. The Yes Men's act proves many things, but above all the Men show, in agonizing detail, that in our broken-down system, bullshit really does walk.

The immodestly titled The Yes Men Fix the World is a self-directed affair, with documentation of their most recent exploits interspersed with rather weak comedic material. The framing device finds the Men in their Honeycomb Hideout (a bombed-out urban façade) watching the news and getting new ideas. Where YM1 was a calling card, Fix the World is their Penn & Teller Get Killed, for better or worse.

We observe some very successful endeavors, including Bichlbaum's live appearance on the BBC on the 20th anniversary of Union Carbide's deadly chemical leak in Bhopal, India. (He palms himself off as a Dow representative who takes responsibility and promises to pay all pending Carbide claims: the taking-responsibility part should've been a dead giveaway.) Closer to home, they step in for a HUD representative at a conference on rebuilding New Orleans, where "assistant undersecretary Rene Oswin" announces that low-income housing projects which developers had wanted to close for years—and for which Katrina provided the perfect opportunity—would instead be refurbished and reopened, reversing HUD's demolition plans.

One of the bizarre things one finds while watching Fix the World is that after perpetrating hoaxes such as these, the people on the ground for whom the reversal of fortune would mean a significant betterment in living conditions—the displaced New Orleans residents, the Bhopal claimants—always seem to side with the Yes Men. Those in power who are embarrassed by the pranks always ask aloud, "How could you give these people false hope?" But, as far as the film cares to show, it's always more important to the powerless that the powerful be shown up for the hypocrites they are. This implies (a hopeful sign, even if entirely self-serving for the Yes Men) that many are quite capable of placing politics before personal gain.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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