Review of 'The Gods Must be Crazy'

godsmustbecrazy.jpg In the remote Kalahari a tribe of bushman are thrown into disarray with the arrival of a coke bottle thrown from a passing plane. Xi (N!xau) is determined to rid the tribe of the bottle that has sown envy and distrust in his community where no one “owns” anything. In South Africa Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo) is fed up with her life in the big city so takes up a position as a teacher in a school in a remote village. After her flight she is met by the socially awkward Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) who fails to impress with his incredible antics. Xi stumbles across the two on his journey to the end of the earth but is frustrated when he cannot make his wishes known. Meanwhile, after a failed coup the leader of a rebel force Sam Boga (Louw Verwey) takes a group of school children hostage…

As a teenager growing up in Winnipeg (Canada) “The Gods Must be Crazy” was shown for many years in the local Cineplex (for those that care, in Eaton Place). I remember returning time and time again to the tiny screen where the film was shown with seating for little more than 30 people and laughing my head off every single time…So how does it look watching it again after all these years? I think it bears up pretty well. It is franking extremely silly but if you are receptive to it, the film is still a joy to watch.

Jamie Ulys has a deft touch knowing how to ramp up the comedic elements including hilariously speeding up the film speed but at the same time taking his time to concentrated on more serious aspects. The film begins in a pseudo-documentary fashion explaining the lives of the bushman (sadly, this is all manufactured footage but it does certainly convey the idea of what it must be like…or was like). This is a filmmaker that was obviously in love with Africa with some incredibly beautiful pictures of the landscape and it's people. Under his eye everyone is treated equally and honestly which really endears them to the audience.

The acting is hammy but earnest with N!xau truly enthralling as the bushman Xi (in reality he was from quite a different background and not from a deep-desert tribe) despite having no acting experience whatsoever. He very much convinces as the innocent bushman simply trying to do what is best for his community and stunned by the craziness of the “Gods” he meets. Prinsloo and Weyers are great as slapstick white “Gods” seemingly out of their element in rural Africa. Michael Thys is great as Mpudi, Andrew Steyn's assistant, serving as a helpful link between the real Africa and the Africa of the white Gods. The scenes of him fixing the range rover he nicknames the “Anti-Christ” are priceless (as is the bit where he is forced to rescue the car hanging from a tree…).

The story is simple but easy to follow with plenty of great comedy moments which, surprisingly, are often simply character slapstick then anything specifically “fish out of water”. The characters themselves are the source of the comedy which in no way denigrates the Africans in the film, indeed, they are the sane ones (the film title is truly apt). I think this is probably the best part of this film. It is a gentle comedy set in an unusual location for a comedy, rural Africa is a setting we normally see in films of deprivation, violence or tragedy. This is a refreshing change as the people living there are people just like anyone else.

A good lot of fun. “The God's Must be Crazy” has been labelled “the best African film ever” and I can see why. Refreshing and witty but EXTREMELY corny which may not be to everyone's taste. I would suggest you stick with it and keep an open mind. This is not Shakespeare or Die Hard but it is a gentle, kind comedy which it's sequel never really managed to recreate.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2020-05-29

Directed by: Jamie Uys

Studio: C.A.T. Films

Year: 1980

Length: 109 minutes

Genre: Comedy

Other reviewed films by Jamie Uys: