The Yes Men can get a little confusing.
The wryly named activist collective has, for almost 20 years now, been punking the world in the name of social, economic and environmental justice, pretending to represent such bastions of officialdom as the World Trade Organization at phony news conferences meant to embarrass the organizations they parody.
One infamous 2009 stunt documented in the film “The Yes Men Are Revolting” features Andy Bichlbaum — who along with partner Mike Bonanno is the public face of the Yes Men — masquerading as U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesman “Hingo Sembra,” as Bichlbaum drops the bombshell that his pro-business lobbying group is suddenly prepared to support climate change legislation, after long-standing opposition. A roomful of somewhat discombobulated reporters — including The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold — are shown dutifully scribbling away, until the real Chamber spokesman enters, in high dudgeon.
If that’s your idea of a good time, then you’ll love the hijinks in “The Yes Men Are Revolting.” For one caper, Bichlbaum and Bonanno try to donate a polar bear — actually two men dressed in a cheesy-looking bear suit — to the Amsterdam zoo on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell’s partnership with Russian oil company Gazprom, whom they accuse of despoiling the environment. It’s a little silly, a little cerebral.
The collective’s pranks have been chronicled in two earlier documentaries, “The Yes Men” (2003) and “The Yes Men Fix the World” (2009), but this one comes with a plot twist: It reveals that Bichlbaum and Bonanno aren’t even real.
For the first time in three movies, Bichlbaum and Bonanno admit (sort of) that their real real names are Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, respectively, although they continue to refer to each other as “Mike” and “Andy” throughout the movie. Although this latest documentary is, in large part, simply more of the same stuff we saw in the earlier films, there’s also a lot of background material here about Servin and Vamos that makes this outing a bit more interesting. Servin’s breakup with his boyfriend, for instance, and Vamos’s struggle to balance the life of a globe-trotting activist with the needs of his wife and three kids, are among the details that enrich the film. So are the glimpses of the duo’s day jobs as art professors. “I haven’t really prioritized employment,” says Vamos/Bonanno, in a wry aside.
Servin and Vamos clearly have a healthy sense of the absurd, which they use, like good satirists, to highlight hypocrisy, greed and corruption. And finally, it’s nice to see the men behind the Yes Men.
Unrated. At the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market. Contains some coarse language. 91 minutes.