‘The Yes Men Are Revolting’
Directors: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Laura Nix
3 (out of 5) Globes
“The Yes Men Are Revolting” is not just a doc about global warming, income inequality and other causes for puckish political activism. It’s not even just another round of stunts by its legendary activist pranksters, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, starring in their third documentary. It’s a look at the art of activism itself, and at those who wage it. It’s about worrying over how much satirical pranks actually effects change. It look at the strain of staying committed through the many valleys one hits on the way to changing the world. And it’s about getting older and not being able, thanks to responsibilities or merely more easily tired minds and bodies, to do the crazy business one did when one was young and more limber.
This is the third “Yes Men” movie, and it takes a different tact from 2003’s “The Yes Men” and 2009’s “The Yes Men Fix the World.” Those films largely existed to preserve on film stunts intended to go, in the early days, a more analogue form of viral. Bichlbaum and Bonanno’s shtick tends to involve posing as bureaucrats and shaming companies and government bodies into perhaps doing the right thing on issues like climate change or the Bhopal gas disaster. They don’t always, or even often, reverse policies to effect the common good, and that becomes one of the subjects of this threequel, which peers into the personal lives of its stars — though not too much. After all, it doesn’t reveal that Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are not their real names. (IRL, they’re Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos.)
Regardless, we do learn that Bichlbaum has a serious relationship, at least when the film opens, and Bonanno has kids. And after a couple projects either fail or simply fail to result in change, they start to fret that their shtick doing needs reworking, if not abandoned altogether. There aren’t too many stunts this time around, but that’s not really what “Revolting” is about. It looks at their changing role in the broad activist field, which, in the time covered in the film, grows bigger and wider than it has since the Iraq War era. The aftermath of the economic apocalypse, plus the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy all happened under this film’s watch, and the structure thus becomes like a “Rocky” movie — a period of despair and disillusionment that leads to an unexpected comeback. “Revolting” even ends ambiguously, leaving it unclear if the Yes Men have their groove back or have simply become leaders for a new generation of the passionate and, also importantly, funny.