The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), or I’m A Dr. Pepper Man, Myself, But…

5 04 2009

Today’s film was requested by Diane. Thanks for the heads up to this fun movie! I really enjoyed it! Remember, folks, I always need suggestions, so give me some ideas in the “Your Recommendations” section of this fabulous website!

There are two minds of the world we live in. One mind says that perhaps we ought to live simply, free of modern conveniences. The idea is that in our pursuit of knowledge and our desire for comfort, we have strayed from our original, less complicated lifestyle in favor of one that is more chaotic, more violent, and more dangerous. The other train of thought is that our modern world is superior to the way things used to be. Reduced numbers of agonizing death from disease, increased life spans, and the education of the masses are just a few of the benefits of our life in the 21’st century (if you live in a wealthy nation, of course). There will be no clear-cut answer, and it really is a bit too late to turn back now that we have progressed so far this way, but the question persists nonetheless. Today’s picture, The Gods Must Be Crazy, is a comedy half the time and a semi-serious satire of our modern life the other half. I can’t say it’s a bad combination, but I left a little confused by the end as to whether I was watching Laurel and Hardy or the Discovery Channel.

There are some goofy white guy storylines in this movie that are funny, but the real story is about a tribe in the Kalahari Desert. They live fancy free, with few wants besides good weather and plentiful food. They have no contact with the outside world and have never seen anyone besides other tribesmen. It is an idyllic life, and everything is working out great, until one day when misfortune falls out of the sky. A pilot, while flying over the desert, drops a Coke bottle (the glass kind, kids, not the fancy plastic ones) out of his plane and right into the laps of this tribe. It miraculously does not shatter, and is considered to be a gift from the gods. They find many imaginative uses for the bottle (using the lips of the bottle to make colored circles to adorn their cloth? Genius!) and everything is still good. But there is only one bottle to go around, so the tribe begins to discover envy and jealousy for the first time. When a fight breaks out over the bottle, one tribe member named Xi has had enough, and has decided that the gods made a mistake sending this bottle to them. He goes on a quest to take the bottle to the end of the world and throw it off the edge. Along the way, he meets a sympathetic biologist, a sexy schoolmarm desired by said biologist, a tour guide who also desires said schoolmarm, a mechanic named M’pudi who thinks that all of them are idiots, a band of guerrillas on the run from government troops, and THE CRAZIEST Land Rover ever! Will Xi be able to make it to the end of the world? Or will the journey be too long? And will the white guy storyline be resolved even though nobody cares about it?

There were a lot of laughs to be had in this one. They really don’t make movies like this anymore, and when they try, it feels very forced. It’s a goofy slapstick with a lot of heart. It really is quite exuberant in its happy-go-lucky nature, and that alone is one great thing going for it. The jokes are simple but very effective, especially the narration, which resembles a nature documentary style, with the dry British fellow professing an odd omniscience that follows the characters throughout South Africa. He’s always saying something smarmy, ignorant in his own white way (“Even a poisonous snake isn’t bad. You just have to keep away from the sharp end.” What?!?). There are lots of spills, slips, and all kinds of goofball antics that you have to keep an eye out for to catch them all, and it is a blast to have something so easy done so well that it actually makes you laugh despite your world-weariness and cynicism.

Everyone is bumbling and loopy, especially those big, dumb white folks. People have said that this movie can be racist, as Xi’s tribe is depicted in the typical “noble savage” light and are sublimely ignorant to their surroundings and their situation. I can see that point, but I posit that, if anything, they were trying to level the playing field by juxtaposing the happiness and simple wisdom of the tribe with the complicated and often bone-headed ideas coming from the “civilized” whites. So, in that respect, it might be a little racist towards us honkies, and if I can take in the scathing indictment of The Gods Must Be Crazy, then so can you, White America. Don’t let it hurt your feelings too much, you cracker-ass crackers.

I just want to say one more thing. THE LAND ROVER! I love that car. It made the movie for me. I guess it’s possessed by ancient African spirits or something, because that thing has a mind of its own. Refuting the mechanic who dubbed it “The Anti-Christ” (!!!), it actually does things on its own. At one point it actually winds up in a tree on its own (!!!)! I have no idea why this happens, but the wacky Land Rover antics made my day today.

So check it out. It’s not all laughs, and there are some serious questions here and there that make you question our high and mighty modern ways, but all in all, a very funny movie with wit and charm that wiggles its way into my heart. There is actually a sequel that I’ll be covering later in the week, but for now, I give The Gods Must Be Crazy 8 1/2 evil Coke bottles out of 10.

Tomorrow is another impromtu Night Out, where we’ll be taking a trip to Adventureland!

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