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Still shot from the movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

When a tribe of African bushman find a piece of litter thrown from a plane, they assume it must be a gift from the Gods. That is until the soda-pop bottle starts to cause all kinds of trouble within their social order. But when Xixo (N!xau) decides to return the offering (by throwing it off the end of the Earth), he runs into even more problems -- in the form of civilized man. Get the movie review and more. »

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Overall: B+ 4.0
Violence: C
Sexual Content: B
Language: C
Drugs/Alcohol: B
Run Time: 109
Theater Release: 21 Aug 1981
Video Release: 03 Feb 2004
MPAA Rating: PG
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Release Date: August 21, 1981

Life in the Kalahari Dessert looks like a National Geographic documentary until a careless pilot in a passing plane drops his empty Coke bottle out the window. Having had no encounters with civilized man, the African Bushmen who find his litter believe the curious object is a gift from the Gods.

Soon covetous feelings start to arise, and the little tribe begins to fear the blessed bottle is really a curse. When it becomes apparent family peace can only be restored if the gift is returned, Xixo (N!xau) volunteers to walk to the end of the earth (no matter how far that may be) and throw “the evil thing” off.

Miles away, Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo) leaves her hectic-but-futile journalist job in the big city, to become a schoolteacher in a primitive rural community. Already a little nervous about being alone in a strange world, she is about to face her worst nightmare -- not in her new employment, but with the man asked to provide her transportation between the last bus stop and the remote mission where she will be working. Although Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) is completely at ease doing zoological research, he has a physiological hang-up about women. Tongue-tied and all thumbs, their introduction goes from awkward to ludicrous with no help from his mechanically challenged vehicle. When a breakdown forces them to campout over night, Kate is convinced the bumbling professor has invented the whole scenario.

In yet another part of the big continent, terrorist Sam Boga (Louw Verwey) is furious when his plans to assassinate some political leaders are bungled. Forced to flee, he and his band of rebels are looking for a group of people they can use as hostages...

Believe it or not, when these three storylines converge, hilarity ensues.

While portrayals of violence aren’t usually synonymous with humor (or even a good combination), The Gods Must Be Crazy is full of odd mixes that work surprisingly well. The ineptness of the guerrilla gang is not so much stupidity, as common human idiosyncrasies (like the two men so obsessed by card playing that the rebellion has become an annoying disruption to their game).

Another paradox is the technical construction of the film. Choppy edits, under cranked cameras, and even blatant lack of lip synchronization, detract from the witty story, yet this movie contains some of the most natural slap-stick comedy you will ever see. Were Marius Weyers stumblebum antics actually scripted? I myself have done things as stupid as his parking the Land Rover so close to the gate that he can’t get it open. And it is hard to remember it was a creative decision to have poor Miss Kate (wearing only her bra and panties) calling for the help of a strange man after she gets stuck in a thorn bush while trying to discreetly change her clothes. Haven’t you had embarrassing moments like that too?

Parents may also have mixed feelings. It would be completely unrealistic to depict the Bushmen in anything but their traditional attire, but that means you see a lot of bare bums and topless females. A frustrated mechanic and some of the terrorist also utter strong language.

Yet what makes this movie so appealing to me is the way it captures Africa’s diversity and constant culture clashes. There is a strong sympathy towards the indigenous peoples, which creates some very tender moments, and a quirkiness that makes me laugh. It obviously charmed a few more viewers too, because this almost one-man show (written, produced and directed by Jamie Uys) which began as a foreign limited-release film in 1980, went on to find a long theatrical run and cult following with North American audiences.

The Gods Must Be Crazy is rated PG:

Cast: Paddy O-Byrne, N!xau, Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers
Studio: 1981 Twentieth Century Fox

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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