'The Yes Men Are Revolting': Toronto Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
Shifting focus makes third Yes Men doc surprisingly dull

The comic-activists attempt to keep their act together

It's not only the planet that's warming in The Yes Men Are Revolting, a doc about the activist-pranksters that reheats some of the gags seen in their last outing, 2009's The Yes Men Fix the World. Director Laura Nix may include previously-used jabs at Dow Chemical and stunts featuring a inflatable disaster suit dubbed the "Survivaball" because she assumes not too many people saw them in that film, the sequel to 2003's The Yes Men. But given the shift in focus here, spending more time on the duo's personal lives and less on their sometimes hilarious "actions," it's likely this film will prove less popular than its predecessor.

It's not that we see no hijinks here. Early on, the Yes Men (who operate under the pseudonyms Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum) hold a press conference and convince a slew of high-profile journalists they represent the pro-business lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After years of fighting climate-change-related legislation, the fake C. of C. spokesman says, they're now supporting it wholeheartedly. We watch as Fox News and CNBC report the faux news.

But we also spend lots of aimless-feeling time behind the scenes. Some of it is a stroll down memory lane, recounting how the men met; more looks at how their years of troublemaking have affected their love lives and day jobs. As it progresses, watching Mike raise children, move off to Scotland, and grow less involved in planning satirical performance art, the film presupposes a bit more interest in the pair's friendship and personal lives than many viewers will have.

Relationship dramas aside, the film's largest theme is global warming. In setting up the rationale behind pranks targeting Shell Oil and others, Nix offers some quickie animated lessons that make points any viewer of a political doc will already understand ("it turns out the Arctic is melting...") but do contain more obscure facts as well. The Men go to 2009's climate-change summit, and their dispiritment over the lack of action there threatens the existence of the team; the next time we see them work together, logistics are a fiasco and tempers are high.

Inspired a couple of years later by Occupy Wall Street, they get the band back together. Their infiltration of a Homeland Security event is only slightly less ludicrous than its predecessor (Andy's ersatz scientist wears a woman's wig; a comedian poses as a Native American songleader), but the performers, perhaps looking for some narrative closure for the movie, spin it as a sign for hope.

Production companies: Human Race LLC, Felt Films, Chili Film, Motto Pictures, Pieter van Huystee Film, Renegad Pictures, Senorita Films

Director-Producer: Laura Nix

Executive producers: Alan Hayling, Adam McKay, Christopher Clements, Julie Goldman, Rita Dagher

Editors: Geraud Brisson, Claire L. Chandler, Soren B. Ebbe

Music: Didier Leplae, Joe Wong

Sales: Cinetic

 

No rating, 91 minutes

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