Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Gods Must Be Crazy II

The Gods Must Be Crazy II; comedy, South Africa / Botswana / USA, 1989; D: Jamie Uys, S: N!xao, Lena Farugia, Hans Strydom, Eiros, Nadies, Erick Bowen, Treasure Tshabalala

Bushman Xixo still lives an ancient tribal life in the Kalahari, his tribe being unaware of modern civilization. Curiosity gets the best out of his kids, Xiri and Xisa, who board a truck of two poachers, but when it drives off at high speed, they get stuck in it, so Xixo follows its tire trail to find them. At the same time, American lawyer, Ann Taylor, arrives in Namibia for a conference. She boards a light plane of a man she met for a Safari, but he lands and the Zoologist Stephen becomes the new pilot. Ann and Stephen crash land after a storm and get separated in the wilderness. Ann stumbles upon an Angolan and Cubanese soldier fighting, who came there from the Angolan Civil War. When the poacher captures Xixo, Ann, Stephen and the two soldiers unite to stop and capture the poacher villain and apprehend him. Then they depart back home. Xixo finds his kids in the desert and they also head back home.

Director Jamie Uys' final film—and his only sequel—is a worthy follow-up to his surprise hit "The Gods Must Be Crazy" that surpassed the boundaries of its country of origin and attracted worldwide attention and appeal. International box office hits of non-American countries are hardly predictable, though part of that winning formula seems to lie in the blend between some endemic features of that said "exotic" country with Western civilization: "Crocodile Dundee" had the hero from the Outback go to New York; "They Call Me Trinity" had Italian actors pretend to be in an American Western; "Enter the Dragon" had Eastern martial arts presented as an international tournament which included Americans. "Gods" seemed to have hit that niche when it presented a culture clash of one of the last ancient "hermit" tribes, the Bushmen, getting in contact with Western civilization. Even though the impact of the sequel at the box office was lesser than the 1st film, part 2 is equally as good, with the American co-production allowing Uys to improve the story even technically. The critics complained that the sequel is silly and just a repeat of the 1st film, yet even the original was silly.

Part 2 stays true to the spirit of the original, this time presenting the theme of separation and a search to unite again (N!Xao's character is separated from his kids and thus goes on a quest to find them; the American lawyer, Ann, and Zoologist Stephen, are separated in the desert and thus try find their way back home) while again showing Uys' playful side who pays homage to silent slapstick comedies (certain scenes are filmed in fast motion of 12 frames/second in order to give them that burlesque tone) and uses the Kalahari fauna to interact with the protagonists in various creative ways (one of the most memorable sequences involves Ann trying to extract water from a wind-reservoir, yet she must manually turn the turbine at the top of the ladder, while a mischievous monkey keeps stealing the water coming from the pipe in a can at the ground). Certain moments are contrived (just like in the 1st film, a civil war subplot seems superfluous even here, involving a Angolese and Cuban soldier fighting over who will be whose POW) whereas others are clearly staged (the costume of the rhinoceros), and it is a pity that N!xao has been almost reduced to a supporting character this time, yet the story still has some sparks of wonder (the light plane entering a storm of almost Biblical proportions and then landing on an ancient tree offers exquisite shot compositions; a Bushman running under a giant giraffe; the Bushman kid holding a part of a tree over its head to appear taller than the hyena) and innocence that enables it to even get away with butt-naked Bushmen throughout the entire screen time. Uys does not shy away from absolutely goofy moments (one comical scene has the poacher holster its pistol in his belt, but the weapon falls down in his pants) yet also gives a genuine commentary on human differences and similarities (love, friendship, justice), which help alleviate the rather rushed finale.


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