The Gods Must Be Crazy

Dir: Jamie Uys, 1980



South Africa isn’t known for its booming film industry so, when this little gem came out, it made a few waves.

Set in Botswana, The Gods Must Be Crazy tells the tale of Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo), arriving to take up the post of as a new school teacher.

Biologist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) is sent to pick the teacher up and escort her to her new place of work. Unfortunately, the professor is a complete pillock and bumbling idiot who takes a liking to the new teacher and becomes even more of a buffoon when he’s around her.

A second story runs along side, concerning a native tribe who stumble across an empty Coke bottle that has been thrown from a plane and are in awe of it.

Believing the bottle to be a gift from the gods, the tribe embrace the glass object but soon begin to bicker and argue over the use of the bottle.

Upset at the trouble this “gift” has caused, Xi (N!xau), takes the bottle and crosses the Kalahari desert to give it back to the gods.

The Gods Must Be Crazy plays on the ancient tried and tested formula of slapstick.

For 1980 this was a gamble as comedy of that type had died out years before and attempts to recreate it, seldom worked.

Slapstick is a highly difficult form of humour to make work. Laurel and Hardy both had what it takes and used it to unbeatable excellence. The Three Stooges and Abbot and Costello also had the knack and employed it wisely.

On paper the film sounds terrible, but, somehow, director Uys is able to tease out several laughs from the childish inanities.

Make no mistakes, there’s nothing clever about any of this. It’s age old jokes, some of which precede Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. One such example concerns a band of guerillas kicking a set of double doors open only to have them slam back in the group.

In 1980 this may have seemed fresh and invigorating as a change to the diet of soppy melodramas and standard comedy fare that was being dished out at the time; a harking back to the innocent days of silent comedy.

The Gods Must Be Crazy breathed life into an art that always runs the risk of becoming stale but, ironically, now seems dated and lifeless.

Several scenes are still immensely funny and the goofy, screwball gags will still bring chuckles for years to come.

Unfortunately, it’s the rest of it that, doesn’t exactly fail, but loses some of the energy and vitality that made it so popular.

Yet, the film doesn’t lose its charm and pleasure that encompassed it over three decades ago. The scene with Andrew, a gate and a broken Land Rover is a root as is the priest climbing the tree in an attempt to escape from a lion.

It’s definitely worth checking out, but just don’t be swayed by the accolades that may have seemed ideal in 1980 but not, necessarily, today.

A fun ninety minutes.


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