This sequel to South African filmmaker Jamie Uys' worldwide hit THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1981), which earned a surprising $13 million in rentals during its 1984 North American release, covers the same ground as its predecessor with similarly pleasant results--though the naive charm seems a
bit forced this time around. Part two opens in the Kalahari Desert, where N!Xau, the Kalahari Bushman who starred in the first film, is preparing to go on a foraging expedition with his nine-year-old daughter (Nadies) and five-year-old son (Eiros). An offscreen narrator sets the scene for any
viewers who might have missed the first installment. The Bushmen are an isolated people who live in an area of the desert considered uninhabitable by modern man. They are therefore completely unaware of the modern world and live in a state of primitive innocence, completely in harmony with their
environment. The Bushmen also have no concept of machinery, ownership, work, or war--screened as they are from civilization by the buffer of the harsh Kalahari. While hunting, N!Xau is separated from his children when they explore what they construe as a very strange animal: the parked truck of a
pair of hapless elephant poachers (Pierre Van Pletzen and Lourens Swanepoel). Unaware of their inquisitive passengers, the poachers drive off with the children, forcing N!Xau to pursue the truck, following its tracks in the sand. Meanwhile, the film's other principal characters arrive in the same
remote region of the desert via separate subplots. Lena Farugia, playing New York attorney Dr. Ann Taylor, and Hans Strydom, playing ranger-zoologist Dr. Stephen Marshall, have been blown off course by a freak storm that lodges their ultra-light airplane in the branches of a Baobab tree. Farugia,
a high-powered lawyer in the Big City, is helpless and panic-stricken in the wilds of the Kalahari--leaping six feet in the air and onto the shoulders of Strydom every time she sees a lizard or some equally exotic animal. Despite initial mutual disdain, they come to rely on each other until they
are separated after a disastrous attempt to take off Flintstones-style in the airplane: Strydom tries to compensate for a flat tire by running with his feet through a hole in the cockpit floor, but Farugia pulls back too suddenly on the controls and flies away, leaving him to wander after her in
the desert. While all of this has been taking place, two soldiers (Erick Bowen and Treasure Tshabalala), separated from armies engaged in a nearby border war, have been playing a deadly game of tag--taking turns making each other a prisoner. N!Xau happens upon their tracks and goes to greet them,
explaining that he does not have time to play with them because he is searching for his children. Farugia also stumbles upon the soldiers after parachuting to earth with her plane and attempting to walk back to Strydom, who is by now near collapse from lack of water and the effect of a scorpion
bite. Farugia manages to take both soldiers prisoner with a purse filled with rocks and forces them to drive her toward Strydom. N!Xau, as it happens, has also run across Strydom's faltering tracks and has taken time from his search (he has been running two nights and three days) to save the
stricken man. He then finds Farugia and her captives and leads them to Strydom before resuming his mission. By this time, both children have escaped from the truck, one by accident, the other purposely when the poachers stopped to get their bearings. Separately, they follow the truck's tire tracks
in an attempt to return to their father. Swanepoel, the evil poacher, discovers that Van Pletzen, his kindhearted but incompetent assistant, has been driving in the wrong direction. They double back along their tracks, almost running over both children and then N!Xau, whom they capture after he
sees their truckload of tusks. The poachers also capture Farugia, Strydom, Bowen, and Tshabalala by using N!Xau as a hostage. Swanepoel drives off to contact his boss, leaving the prisoners with Van Pletzen. Van Pletzen manages to shoot himself in the foot after dropping his pistol in his
waistband and the prisoners escape. Swanepoel returns and sets fire to the underbrush to kill them all, but N!Xau saves them by making a circular firebreak. They return and capture Swanepoel, who is now being held at bay on top of his truck by a pride of lions forced out of the veldt by his fire.
Van Pletzen tells N!Xau where he last saw the lost children. The two soldiers part as friends, one taking the poachers to justice, after helping Strydom and Farugia repair their airplane. Strydom and Farugia return to the hotel where she is scheduled to represent a corporate client at an important
meeting. As their airplane glides to earth, they attempt to kiss, but Farugia slips through the hole in the cockpit floorboard, dangling precariously with her dress pulled over her head. Corporate and government officials who have been supervising her rescue search gawk at her underwear. Finally,
N!Xau is reunited with Nadies and Eiros, who joined forces just in time to save the little boy from a hyena attack, and the family embraces for a tearful happy ending.
Considered outside of its political context--THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II and its predecessor were financed and shot entirely in South Africa and many anti-apartheid sympathizers have condemned both films--this film provides many simple pleasures. Uys has a fine sense of the absurd and the settings
for both of these films, which throw the civilized world into sharp contrast with the primitive, provide him with abundant comic opportunities. The almost-mythical story line of the first film--N!Xau's heroic journey to return an empty Coke bottle, tossed from an airplane, to the Land of the Gods
after it brings the evils of ownership, jealously, and violence to his people--is missing from this installment. Even so, the underlying idea that sustained the first film is still effective and involving. The audience is able to see itself through the eyes of a man to whom the most serious
"civilized" activity, such as two soldiers desperately trying to gun each other down, is mysterious and ridiculous. In Uys' skillful hands, even the animals seem to look bemusedly at the silly behavior of modern man.
Yet Uys never preaches. He is out for laughs, not revelations about the human condition. His approach is always whimsical and gentle--even in the frequent slapstick sequences that he gooses along with a little fast-motion filmwork a la Benny Hill. Despite a few dull spots and a certain amount of
predictability, THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY II delivers enough laughs and does it with enough charm to be worthwhile viewing, especially for fans of the first film. In addition, this film qualifies as entertainment genuinely suitable for the entire family. It manages to be wholesome, intelligent, and
amusing without succumbing to smarminess. The comedy that appeals to children in this film will also, no-doubt, appeal to adults--a rare accomplishment.
The political controversy that hangs over these films is unfortunate, given Uys' obvious love of the Kalahari and its people. Uys has spent years living among the Bushmen, seeking the ideal actors and locations for his films, and seems genuinely fascinated by juxtaposing their ways with those of
the civilized world. It seems clear that these films arise from his admiration of these people. Nonetheless, it is understandable how these films could be offensive to viewers with sensitive political antennae. Financed, created, and distributed by white South Africans, THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY and
its sequel could easily be viewed as a condescending pat on the heads of the cute little Bushmen by the culture that has usurped their land.
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: PG
- Review: This sequel to South African filmmaker Jamie Uys' worldwide hit THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY (1981), which earned a surprising $13 million in rentals during its 1984 North American release, covers the same ground as its predecessor with similarly pleasant result… (more)