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Review: Mad Buddies

Andrea van Wyk says Leon Schuster’s latest offering is unlikely to disappoint.

Leon Schuster and Kenneth Nkosi in the movie Mad Buddies. Picture: Touchstone Pictures

Many film snobs have pulled up their noses at the thought of yet another Leon Schuster movie. His type of slapstick comedy does not attract awards or critical acclaim. But, for local cinemas it means only one thing: box office gold. And Schuster's latest offering is unlikely to disappoint movie bosses.

Mad Buddies (directed by Gray Hofmeyr) is as ridiculous a pratfall comedy as we have come to expect from Schuster. The premise or plot is almost unnecessary - the audience knows what will happen, regardless of the story.

Nevertheless in the interest of providing a full review, the film centres around two sworn enemies: Boetie (Schuster) and Beast (Kenneth Nkosi) who ruin the wedding of the daughter of the country's Tourism Minister (played by Schuster's favourite co-star, Alfred Ntombela).

In order to avoid a jail sentence, the pair is forced to embark on a road trip together and walk all the way from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng. The Tourism Minister decides this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate racial harmony in South Africa and Boetie and Beast unwittingly become part of a reality show which tracks their journey.

The show does not go quite as planned though, with the two constantly trying to exact revenge on one another. And of course, the journey is fraught with implausible mishap after implausible mishap. Characters fall over as often as dominoes in the hands of a three-year old. There are various incidents involving animals, car crashes and of course, a good measure of excrement which inevitably lands in someone's face. Before the media preview, one critic joked that we should bet on the number of farts.

As with all Schuster films, there is a play on racial and sexual stereotypes though, in this film the latter results in unnecessary sexist and homophobic undertones. The characters are one-dimensional and it is just a little regretful that Kenneth Nkosi would go from starring in the refreshingly witty local comedy, White Wedding, to this, but money does talk. And Schuster and Nkosi do have good rapport if nothing else. "I like improvisation and Kenny is very good at that. There was no scripted dialogue after the scene in which I kick the window out of the car but I just threw in a line and he responded sarcastically and it works," says Schuster. "This is what makes the movie great because the audience doesn't know what is going to happen next; they wait in anticipation the whole time to see what the next move is."

Yet, this and many other derisive reviews will never stop Mad Buddies from being a wild success. South Africans simply love this type of comedy. It is nonsensical and does not even attempt to hint at wit, but, it is simple, undemanding entertainment. Schuster himself says this is not a "message film." But, Nkosi insists the humour does come from a "real place."

"When people start talking about this movie and about the race relations in this country, that is something real. But, we are learning to laugh at it and trying to move on and trying to create dialogue. It's a serious issue but it's funny," Nkosi explains.

And, try as we might, critics cannot argue with ticket sales. Schuster's 2008 comedy, Mr Bones 2: Back from the Past, is the highest grossing South African film of all time at R35 million. At the local box office it is surpassed only by Titanic. Who are we then, to argue with popular taste?

In short, if you love Leon Schuster movies, you will love Mad Buddies. If you hate Schuster, stay away.

Follow Andrea van Wyk on Twitter @Andyvanwyk

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