The Gods Must Be Crazy II

Though I counted myself a fan of 1984’s The Gods Must Be Crazy, part of that film’s charm undoubtedly derived from its novelty: It wasn’t every day you got to see a slapstick fairy tale in which a near-naked Bushman engaged in Buster Keaton-style duels with moving vehicles. The first Gods had a delicate slapstick purity. Every- thing in it felt zingy gy original, from the outrageous storybook narration to the beautiful clicks and pops of the Bushmen’s tongue.

So perhaps it’s no great shock that The Gods Must Be Crazy II doesn’t feel nearly as fresh. The surprise is that it’s a disaster — witless and crude, and patently offensive.

Written and directed (like the first film) by the veteran South African filmmaker Jamie Uys, this sequel has no center. Instead, we get three flatfooted subplots: the Bushman hero, Xixo (played, once again, by N!Xau — gee, don’t you wish you had an exclamation point in your name?), searching in vain for his two lost children; the two cute-as-a-button Bushkids stowing themselves aboard an elephant poacher’s truck and climbing over the speeding vehicle like human koala bears; and the screwball antics of two dorky urban whites lost in the Kalihari. In case we get bored, Uys keeps throwing in Wild Kingdom footage of exotic creatures (ostriches, hyenas, boars), most of which obviously have been photographed separately from the folks they’re supposed to be sharing scenes with.

The intricate silent-comedy routines of the first movie have now given way to relentless sound effects and speeded-up motion — it’s like watching South Africa’s Unfunniest Home Videos. What’s more, certain aspects of the movie are (to put it mildly) politically troubling.

Uys’ idea of a gag is to keep lifting the skirt of his overcivilized heroine; as an admirer of the fair sex, he falls somewhere between ”Crocodile” Dundee and Benny Hill. And I’m afraid his antiquated view of the Bushmen, who are treated by the movie as overgrown children, can no longer be regarded as innocent folly. A movie like The Gods Must Be Crazy II would be unimaginable in a South Africa without apartheid. It’s essential to recognize Uys’ patronization of the Bushmen for what it is: a beguiling form of racism.

The Gods Must Be Crazy II
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