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OH SCHUKS, I'M GATVOL (article first published : 2004-05-3)

The Midas of the South African movie industry, the king of corn and the champ of cheese, Leon Schuster is not one to stray too far from his hit formula. And his fans clearly love him for it, as his films are constantly rated among top box-office successes.

He churns out relatively cheap, predictable, ultra-light comedies for the very easily amused with an alarming regularity. And while his latest effort will never be labelled witty, sophisticated, clever or stylish, judging by the chuckles and guffaws it drew at a weekend screening it's sure to find its following.

Yet, if the truth be told, Oh Schuks, I'm Gatvol is probably Schuster's most shoddy film yet - a tale that starts with some semblance of a plot, taking the mickey out of the Bush-Hussein affair and local crime intolerance, then quickly running out of steam to turn into a series of candid camera sequences, which is what Schuster does best.

And the sentimental ra-ra-Suid-Afrika ending is cringingly awful.

The increasingly inane plot revolves around one Samoosa Woestyn from a country called Afkaq who, after spending a year in a large pipe, hiding from George Bush and his miltary might, emerges as ... a dwarf, played by Gerry the Clown.

Samoosa then heads for South Africa to hatch a plot against the Americans, his bumbling sidekick (Bill Flynn) in tow. But when he unwittingly winds up being the star of a candid camera sketch orchestrated by celebrated South African film-maker, Mr Schuks (Schuster), and his cackling sidekick Kortgat (Alfie Ntombela), Samoosa sets out to do all in his power to recover the master tape, lest his plans to overthrow America were also caught by Schuks's cameras.

Samoosa and his sidekick - who constantly suffers the indignity and pain of having his boss twang his crotch with a silver ball attached to a length of elastic hanging from his trousers - are even prepared to hop aboard Vokov Airlines to follow Shuks and Kortgat to Australia when, fed up with local crime, the South Africans opt to emmigrate.

Once aboard the aircraft the unavoidable excesses of Schuster slapstick kick in and, in between corny cracks, clunky ditties, obligatory flatulence jokes and even a bizarre Austen Powers send-up featuring a po-faced Mark Banks, we join aircraft passengers for candid camera frolics captured by Shuks for his latest film

There is fun to be had from the candid camera antics - most notably sequences involving a bewildered Steve Hofmeyr, worried mini-bus drivers, commuters whose driver's licences are cut up by a disgruntled traffic cop and people who unwittingly aid in the theft of sound systems from parked cars.

Unfortunately, however, these highlights are too few and arrive too late to alleviate the boredom of the bitty plot and the embarrassment of watching Bill Flynn continually making an ass of himself.

Featuring snippets from a heap of new Schuster comedy songs - clearly he is pushing for good sales of his next album - the film offers cameo appearances by, among others, Mike Schutte, Al Debbo and Sandra Prinsloo, all appearing as themselves.

Call me a snob if you like, but I disliked the film intensely. Shuster fans, however, will no doubt laugh a lot, while Leon will laugh all the way to the bank. And confidence in the film's box-office pull is reflected in the staggering number of screens showing it locally - three cinemas at Gateway alone. Yikes! Billy Suter




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