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GODS MUST BE CRAZY II, THE

                    

From the May 18, 1990, Deseret News

THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II — N!Xau, Lena Farugia, Hans Strydom; rated PG (violence, profanity, partial nudity)

Writer-director Jamie Uys was bound to attempt a sequel to his charming, hilarious "The Gods Must Be Crazy" of a few years ago, especially since it surprised everyone by becoming an international hit. And he was ultimately doomed to fail in his attempt to equal the naive simplicity of that effort.

And yet "The Gods Must Be Crazy II" is still a pretty good movie in its own right, and it's in the same, but different mode.

Instead of going for laugh after laugh, as the first film did, "Gods II" settles into a particular direction, building characterizations and laughs, most of the latter coming in the film's second half.

There are, as you might expect, great similarities to the first film. The main story line is again about the gentle bushman named Xi (pronounced "Key," again played by N!Xau, the only returning cast member), whose people live in the deadly Kalahari desert, and his efforts to deal with encroaching "civilization." And again this is only one of several plots that play separately until they eventually collide for the film's climax.

This time Xi is forced to wander from his village to try and find his two children, who have been inadvertently kidnapped by a pair of ivory poachers.

Meanwhile, a dignified New York lawyer (Lena Farugia) finds herself lost in the Kalahari with a naturalist (Hans Strydom), in a plot similar to the first film's city-bred schoolteacher lost in the Kalahari with a klutzy naturalist. This time, however, it is the woman who is the klutz.

Then there are the poachers, trying to get their booty out of the bush and into the hands of their employer. There are also two soldiers — an African and a Cuban — who try to capture each other as prisoners of war.

As with the first film, the plots are all intercut until they eventually merge, there is an eccentric airplane instead of a jeep, the woman's dress keeps getting pulled up over her head, Xi berates "the gods" for the strange behavior of the more "civilized" people he meets, and eventually Xi saves the day.

The best of all comes from N!Xau, whose naive innocence is the film's anchor. The plot elements that involve him and/or his two children (charmingly played by Eiros and Nadies) are what hold the picture together.

"The Gods Must Be Crazy II" benefits from writer-director Uys' natural instincts for sweetness, gentle comedy and his keen sense of slapstick timing — the latter an almost extinct trait. But, like the first film, he tends to undermine some of that by speeding up the movement for a "Keystone Kops" look.

There are also technical weaknesses, such as low-budget special effects, especially obvious during a sequence where the plane flies above a storm, and the clouds are obviously paintings. And occasionally there are shots in scenes that don't match, as if some were filmed on 35mm stock and others on 16mm, then blown up to 35mm.

Farugia and Strydom have little of the charm of their counterparts in the first film, and their " `Crocodile' Dundee"-style hijinks are not nearly as inventive.

Still, there's all too little sweetness in movies today, and this one provides enough gentle humor that it qualifies as a genuine family movie, as opposed to "Ernest Goes to Jail" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," which are children's movies.

"The Gods Must Be Crazy II" is rated PG for profanity, though there isn't much, and violence, of which there is much less than in the original "The Gods Must Be Crazy."