Sometimes you come across a film you should’ve heard of. For me it was The Gods Must Be Crazy from 1980. I’ll tell you straight out the gate it’s one hell of a goofball comedy with heaps of sweetness to boot. Can’t see how on Earth I missed it as it seems everyone I talk to has heard of it! What with 45 thousand ratings on IMDB bringing its score up to 7.3/10 this movie is much loved and has a devoted cult following. Quick read after watching it, I was surprised to see that it made a colossal amount of money with a worldwide take of around 100 million dollars! Making it one of the most commercially successful films to come out of South Africa.
Tagline – The critics are raving… the natives are restless… and the laughter is non-stop!
Set in Botswana and starting off like a documentary narrated by Paddy O’Byrne who gives a delightful 70’s children’s television show feel to it. He introduces us to our star, the head of a small tribe of bushmen called Xi, played with a tenderness and wide eyed awe by N!xau. This peaceful happy group have been blissfully unaware of the outside crazy world and live a content life in a tight family group.
Until one day the ridiculous “civilised” world comes knocking in the shape of a bottle of Coke Cola. The strange object is thrown out of an airplane and falls right at the feet of our hero Xi. A gift from the gods! A useful tool to be used in everyday life for him and his community. But it’s not long before this foreign object is discovered to be a curse rather than a gift from the gods. Xi decides to take the bottle to the end of the world and give it back to the gods.
What ensues is a trek across the country bumping into all manner of animals and bizarre people, all bringing comical effect to our bewildered bushman on his epic journey.
Intertwined in this batty story is a biologist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) who is comedy gold. A babbling buffoon who falls over everything in gorgeous slapstick style. Up there with many slapstick performances from the golden age of cinema. One set piece with the Land Rover with no brakes is a deranged piece of genius as he tries to open and close gates with the van always moving. It’s a pure wonder.
Chuck in a school teacher called Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo) for some cheeky saucy fun as the biologist falls into pure screwball mode. It’s so amazing to watch his nutty comical display.
Andrew “You know she’s got flowers on her panties!”
To put some danger in the mix, there is a subplot featuring a gang of guerrillas led by the devious Sam Boga (Louw Verwey), who is being pursued by the national army. This turns into speeded up car chases, tanks, rocket launchers and all round carnage.
Do look out for Andrews mechanic friend Mpudi (Michael Thys) who works on “The Antichrist” the Land Rover. His tantrums and angry words as he works away on the beast are a big laugh.
I won’t go into the story too much but if you haven’t seen this I can assure you will have never seen anything quite like it. It’s a blast.
Directed by South African Jamie Uys who worked so hard on the film he suffered a heart attack. No stranger to comedy films he looks like he made a few in a the style of Candid Camera called Funny People. After the success of The Gods Must Be Crazy he returned for part two in 1989. After that though N!xau got picked up for some unofficial versions of the film, taking him to Hong Kong and Beijing China and they look pretty bad.
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