At one point during this stunt documentary (on DVD Feb. 15), a man stands before a group of labor delegates in a gold bodysuit with a giant inflatable phallus protruding from his crotch. He's supposedly there on behalf of the World Trade Organization, demonstrating the newest developments in leisure-time maximization. What's most astonishing about this scene is not the giant inflatable phallus but that fact that the crowd of delegates could seemingly care less. Mostly they remain unfazed while the man—who is also suggesting some deeply troubling management ideals (think Nazism and slavery)—struts around, phallus bobbing back and forth. But maybe that's the whole point.
The Yes Men, protester-activists Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano, pass themselves off as members of organizations like the WTO to draw media attention to human-rights issues. Their usual mode of attack is to create Web sites, mimicking those of the groups they are exposing, then fill them with their own subversive content. So when confused organizers of various conferences want, for example, the WTO to attend, the Yes Men come instead to represent the WTO in some very unusual ways. It's guerrilla activism for the 21st century.
The film is entertaining and, at times, eye-opening; but there is a lot of filler, and much of it is not really germane to Bichlbaum and Bonnano's political aims. When deploying one of their ruses, the tension is palpable—you get butterflies from it. Yet as a film that aspires to occupy the same air as Michael Moore's movies, it never quite has the needed immediacy and weight. It often comes off as silly and nonchalant for a piece about social injustice.
That being said, it's amusing—and short—and by all means worth seeing, if only for the audacious stunts. You might call The Yes Men reality TV with a brain. The extras are minimal, with a very redundant commentary track. But watch out for another jaw-dropping sound bite from President Bush.
RECENT MAY releases include the filmmaking spoof The Last Shot, the restored The Big Red One, the hemp documentary Go Further (with Woody Harrelson, of course), the reasonably creepy Ian McEwan adaptation Enduring Love, National Treasure, and The Phantom of the Opera. With a remake due May 27, Burt Reynolds adds a commentary to the original The Longest Yard. Better are the Sex Pistols' The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle (finally on DVD) and The Life Aquatic (with Wes Anderson commentary among other extras).