Gavin has already given his review of Leon Schuster’s latest effort, Mad Buddies, and was generally pretty positive about the whole affair. Which I have to admit left me completely puzzled as I clearly remember the 2 minutes I had spent watching the trailer a few weeks earlier, being about as funny as Lymphoma and every bit as traumatizing.
So off I went to discover if this was just a case of an unfortunately bad trailer and had Gavin actually found a pot comedy gold at the end of this rainbow nation production, or was it actually just a crock of something else entirely.
Let me start off with a bit of a disclaimer: I think Leon Schuster is a funny guy. “Maak soos ‘n blou lig” will always be one of the funniest lines ever immortalized on screen. But a good comedian is not necessarily a good filmmaker, something that has become increasingly obvious with each film Schuster has made after deciding to drop the candid camera act that brought him his initial fame.
And now we get to Mad Buddies, which sees Schuster and Kenneth Nkosi as Boetie and Beast (a droll nod to Disney, Schuster’s new paymasters), a white ex-game ranger and black ex-cop respectively, who after a case of mistaken identity manage to not only ruin each other’s careers, but in the very unexpectedly gruesome case of Boetie, have his toe shot off. After a second disastrous chance encounter between the two is captured by the international media as a breakdown of the rainbow nation and sees them facing possible jail time, they get given the option of reconciling their perceived racial differences while embarking on a 600km walk from KZN to Gauteng. But unbeknownst to them, cunning reality TV host Kelsey (Tanit Phoenix) plans to secretly film the whole affair as TV show, much to South Africa’s viewing pleasure.
Now while that certainly doesn’t sound like the worst premise for a film, the problem here is that this is only a “film” in the loosest sense of the word. Plot? Character? Acting? Leon Schuster and his writer/director partner Gray Hofmeyr treats these like cheap 1-ply toilet paper.
What follows is just 90 minutes of scene after scene of people badly pantomiming getting hit in the head and/or genitals by either each other or the local wildlife, with orifice excretions of every colour and texture thrown into the steaming, stinking mess, just for good measure. While some bad films just use their script as vehicle for toilet humour, Mad Buddies takes it a step further by having a character actually go to the toilet in a vehicle.
The one time that Schuster and co decides to reign in their juvenile excesses though, as Boetie stops to ask a Lesotho highlander for directions, it actually left me in stitches. Ditching all the bodily cliches in favour of just deadpan delivery and a zinger of a one-liner, it’s easily the highlight of the movie and shows you just what this could have been before it was decided that “poop = funny”.
As the two leading men, Schuster and Nkosi seem to at least have some chemistry going between them. Unfortunately that’s all flushed away as they both show off the type of acting normally reserved for mid-week primary school plays. But this is a Leon Schuster movie after all, so to be fair I really wasn’t expecting much more.
The same goes for Tanit Phoenix, who I’ve only really seen in mediocre straight-to-DVD sequels. The admittedly gorgeous model turned actress is starting to gain a bit of recognition for herself over in America and while she often has the term “up and coming” slapped in front of her name, I think that’s probably a more apt description of her male fans than her actual talent, as she plays her femme fatale role here with about as much panache as you would normally find on E-tv after midnight on Fridays.
But I need to take a moment here to discuss regular Schuster sidekick Alfred Ntombela and his role in this movie. Despite what the credits may tell you, his minister of tourism Mda is not a character. He’s a walking Youtube Fail compilation video, with an added fart track, who spends literally – LITERALLY – every single scene he is in inflicting the clumsiest violence upon himself for absolutely no reason whatsoever. And while I generally try to keep my reviews spoiler free (as if this movie had a plot to spoil anyway), I need to give you an example of this so that you can feel my pain:
After once again witnessing Boetie and Beast’s continuous refusal to work together on TV, Mda calls up Kelsey to complain about it and asks her to “pull the plug” on the show. He then reaches down to grab the electrical extension cord which his TV is plugged into, and yanks it – only God and Leon Schuster know why – hard enough for the plug to dislodge and hit him in the face.
Aaaaand that’s the scene. There is no real punchline, and even less of a point. What’s worse is that a beat for beat copy of this scene plays out approximately every 15 minutes, with just the method of Mda’s injury changing – from walking into a door, to a statue dropped on his foot, to a ladder knocked against his head, etc.
Each and every time one of these scenes happened, as another piece of my soul shriveled away and died, I looked down about 2 rows in front of me to see a middle-aged lady raucously laughing to the point of tears. And with every single one of her whoops, my faith in humanity dwindled.
You see it’s already been confirmed that Mad Buddies has had the most successful opening weekend of any of Schuster’s movies. In fact, had it not been for The Avengers, it would currently be sitting right on top as the biggest South African Box Office opening of all time. And with Disney now backing and pushing this movie internationally, this will be the new face of South African film that the world will get to see. Think about that for a second.
Where we used to be able to proudly represent ourselves globally as a rainbow nation, Leon Schuster has just turned us into a nation of nothing but brown. K@k brown, that is.
Last Updated: June 28, 2012