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GODS MUST BE CRAZY, THE

                      

From the Jan. 28, 1985, Deseret News

THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY — Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo; rated PG (violence, partial nudity)

"The Gods Must Be Crazy" begins as if it's one of those nature documentaries we've seen a thousand times, with a bland voice-over narration describing the animals and terrain of African bush country, the remote Kalahari.

Then it segues into a description of a gentle tribe untouched by the modern world, where the adults never punish their children and the children are always well-behaved, where life is calm and easy, and the people give thanks to the gods for their food and water and other things provided by nature for their simple needs.

Soon the plot begins to thicken as a Coke bottle is tossed casually out of a low-flying airplane one day and it lands in the midst of the bushmen. The result of this seemingly minor event is utter chaos and leads to a series of developments beyond the bushmen's wildest dreams.

Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that it becomes the task of one bushman named Xi to take the bottle and journey back to the gods, since it has become rather obvious that it is an evil thing whose negative values outweigh its positive ones.

Soon his path will interconnect with that of a band of nasty terrorists on the run from soldiers, along with a young schoolteacher and her stumblebum companion, a microbiologist who becomes a virtual Inspector Clouseau when he's around women.

"The Gods Must Be Crazy" is an African film, obviously low in budget, and a bit rough around the edges. But it is also one of the most delightful and hilarious movies to come along in quite some time.

Writer-producer-director Jamie Uys, an African filmmaker who has made 22 features in 34 years, knows his comedy, and the timing of the slapstick physical humor is exquisite.

In fact, I would defy anyone to sit straight-faced through the 20 minutes or so that have the poor biologist battling his jeep, dubbed "The Anti-Christ." It is simply one of the most hysterical sequences ever put on film and builds to a comedy crescendo that has been absent from the movies since the ‘20s.

If there is any comparison, it is indeed the silent comedies of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, etc., which build tiny disaster upon tiny disaster until it seems the entire world is involved in some way.

But "The Gods Must Be Crazy" also offers a strong message about whether those who live in a concrete, manmade civilization are actually the more "civilized" people. There is little question that Xi is more civilized than anyone around him.

In that regard, Uys also gives Americans an interesting look at the realities of living in Africa, where animals we associate with zoos are all around you.

The performances here are delightful, with several popular African actors in the cast, but especially good is the actor playing the bushman Xi, who is actually no actor at all – he is a bushman that Uys talked into being in his film.

The authenticity here makes for a mesmerizing undertone of reality. Whatever zany things may otherwise be going on, from a raging rhino stamping out a fire to a jeep being pulled up a tree, it's all wonderful because it's all utterly real, despite seeming like so much nonsense. In a crazy way, the people here could be any of us, going through our own personal tragedies day to day.

A foreign film but not a foreign-language film, "The Gods Must Be Crazy," rated PG for violence and some partial nudity (all of is either played for laughs or incidental), is a thoroughly delightful film that anyone and everyone will enjoy. And it's one of the funniest films I've seen in years.