Directed by: Jamie Uys || Produced by: Jamie Uys
Screenplay by: Jamie Uys || Starring: N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Louw Verwey, Michael Thys
Music by: John Boshoff || Cinematography: Buster Reynolds, Robert Lewis || Editing by: Stanford C. Allen, Jami Uys || Country: South Africa, Botswana || Language: English
Running Time: 109 minutes
One of the silliest and most fun movies I’ve seen in a long time, The Gods Must be Crazy is a lighthearted and simple examination of societies and the crazy things that take place within them. It is never quite ambitious enough to rise above its slapstick humor and say something jaw-dropping about its subjects, but sometimes that lack of seriousness is refreshing. Here, that silliness is most welcome.
With some films, like the ridiculous Cannibal Holocaust (1979) or Rang de Basanti (2006), movies can take themselves and their social messages way too seriously. That is absolutely not the case with a film like The Gods Must be Crazy (TGMBC). Taking pride in its comedic tone and slapstick goofiness, TGMBC takes ample time to poke fun at the comparisons between modern day and indigenous societies, yet never lets itself and its tone get dragged down by some of the unfortunate realizations therein.
The film follows the story of one Xi, a member of a Bushmen tribe that lives in the Kalahari Desert. One day, a pilot flying overhead chucks a glass Coca-Cola bottle out the plane window, where it is found by the Bushmen. Before long, the Coke bottle ruins the happy lives of the Bushmen because, well… it just does. They were frankly doing just fine without it. The rest of the film follows Xi as he journeys to return the evil Coke bottle to the Gods by tossing it off the edge of the world. Along the way, his path intersects with several members from modern society, and wacky hijinks ensue as the multiple cultures discover one another.
Writer-director Jamie Uys does a good job using the simple, yet creative premise to create maximum humor and fun during the whole adventure. Nothing any of the characters do, even the terrorizing guerrilla warriors who kidnap and blast everything in sight, is terribly serious due to the film’s tongue-in-cheek nature. The narrative as a whole is one big, ridiculous joke. By the time we come to the rather satisfactory conclusion of Xi and the Evil Coke Bottle Thing, we have taken a humorous and informative look at our “advanced” society through the eyes of an outsider who views the world with a very different lens than our own.
Most of the jokes are witty and well constructed, although the same flavor of humor, as well as the grainy visuals of the film, can feel tiresome by the end of the story. The pacing of the film is also mediocre — TGMBC lacks a consistent rhythm that balances out the various jokes and the sense of adventure Xi’s story holds. I think if the story had focused more on Xi’s personal journey, and spent more time on a fuller arc where he learned some sort of lesson about his world, the narrative as a whole would have felt more satisfying. For a useful comparison, take Talladega Nights (2006) and The Hangover (2009), which are not comedy masterpieces by any means, but they have much better defined beginnings, middles, and ends, and their characters undergo clearer developments.
It’s a fun tale, when all is said and done. TGMBC is one of those international cult favorites everybody sees at some point in their lives due to its unique, likable flavor. There isn’t much comedy here that is extraordinary, but its hard to fault the movie for just trying to have fun and getting us to laugh at ourselves at the same time.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: The Gods Must be Crazy is lighthearted, enjoyable fun. Many of the jokes and slapstick situations are hilarious.
— However… there’s not much of an arc for our Bushman lead, played by a dedicated N!xau, though he is definitely a likable protagonist. The story has so-so pacing.
? I don’t really think glass Coke bottles are evil. Pepsi, on the other hand…