Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni

2006-03-30 13:19

PODCAST interview with Brendan Jack - get it here, it's free and easy!


Lifelong friends Brendan and Gavin have a big problem - tomorrow is their ten-year school reunion and they've just lost their high-powered jobs in advertising. Now they've got 24 hours to sign a record deal, get cast in a big budget American movie, splash their pictures all over the front page of the newspaper, get a hot date with a visiting Hollywood actress, and generally become the successful and famous guys they know they're meant to be.


If you need a one word summary of Straight Outta Benoni, it has to be "disappointing". After the low-fi brilliance of their wickedly satirical skits on MTV, not to mention the months of hype and anticipation, most people were expecting something at least as funny, if not funnier than Crazy Monkey's previous material. Sadly, apart from a few amusing passages, the movie just isn't very funny at all.

The main problem stems from Trevor Clarence and Brendan Jack's screenplay. They have all sorts of very funny ideas - but no clear vision of how to apply these ideas to the screen. What's worse they clearly don't know how to string these ideas together into a coherent whole, or how to pace the action so that the movie doesn't stall and stutter like a learner driver. You can see they have good intentions - but good intentions don't make for good entertainment.

Another obstacle is the acting ability of the leads. While supporting cast members like Tanit Phoenix, Colin Moss and Kagiso Lediga all perform adequately, Brendan Jack and Gavin Williams just don't have the dramatic chops to sustain lead roles. They are charming yes - in a cheeky, knowing sort of way - but charm just isn't going to carry you for 90 minutes of screen time. An honourable mention has to go to Louw Venter who works very hard to squeeze laughs out of the deranged cop character.

The movie is not without its strong points. There are some quite funny passages - like a pensioners vs. youngsters lawn bowls contest (in which our heroes take the name "Death Squad 3000"), and a kids' party that goes very wrong. Every now and again you see flashes of sublime, Monty Pythonesque absurdity in their ideas, but unfortunately they can't seem to tap into that absurdity and make it more palpable.

Another plus is the inclusion of the gorgeous Tanit Phoenix and (very briefly) Lee-Anne Liebenberg. It may seem coarse to trade on the attractiveness of your female cast, but Hollywood does it all the time. Also it's unlikely that Crazy Monkey's audience will care about such niceties - mostly they'll be happy just to ogle the lovely ladies (or Colin Moss as the fancy takes them).

Still, aside from these positives, Straight Outta Benoni is largely a waste of time. The charm and humour are swamped by bad dialogue, indifferent direction and large amounts of what seems like random padding. Constant references to a famous marathon runner making his way across country for charity seem meant to throw the silly pranks of our protagonists into relief, to give the proceedings some gravitas. Instead they come across as patronising and pointless to the story.

So why is the movie such a disappointment? The Crazy Monkey team don't lack for talent or intelligence - their MTV skits prove that. They certainly can't be accused of being lazy - most of them had to take unpaid leave or live on loans to make the film. What it comes down to is a lack of experience and expertise. We all think we could make better movies than the rubbish Hollywood churns out every year - Crazy Monkey have shown it's not as easy as it looks.

But - and this is a big "but" - they still had the guts to go out there and try it. These are the kind of guys who won't give up after the first film. They'll keep plugging away until they get their formula right. There's no need to be apologist about it - their first movie is a dud. What we can look forward to is the next film, and the one after that. And whatever we might think, Brendan, Gavin, Brett and Trevor know they're one step closer to making the great South African comedy.

- Alistair Fairweather

These daring local pranksters made the world chuckle on MTV, but their first film doesn't live up to the promise of their skits. Sadly it just isn't very funny at all.

catherine 2005/09/30 11:08 AM
crazy monkey straight outta benoni i thought the movie was hilarous some parts got a bit boring but ya it was a kiff movie yes and no
Pravesh 2005/09/30 12:08 PM
Brilliant The clip is great ... would love to watch the full movie...
moagli osborne 2005/09/30 1:39 PM
not helping "What we can look forward to is the next film, and the one after that." with a review like this one by alistair, there will never be a chance for a next movie. slating the film, that might just be the best film since "the gods must be crazy" to come out of south africa, just seems a little less than patriotic. everybody has there own opinion, so i think crazy monkey is a great light harted and fun movie. with non of the political issues that we have come to expect in a south african movie... and its a good thing. lord of war
Alistair 2005/09/30 2:16 PM
Patriotism vs Criticism Moagli, I disagree entirely. Reviews don't determine the success of movies - audiences do. Anaconda 2 was one of the biggest sellers of the year - I challenge you to find one truly positive review of it. And just because a film is South African doesn't mean reviewers should go soft on them. I call them like I see them Moagli - that's my job as a critic. And yes, it's my opinion and many will disagree. In the end people will always make up their own minds anyway. But I'm not going to lie about how I feel to fulfil some high minded idea of patriotism. 'Tsotsi' and 'A Boy Called Twist' - two GREAT local films
andrew 2005/09/30 3:51 PM
Crazy Monkey For a SA skit/movie to make such a stir, does not matter weather is simply OK or Brilliant, or even bad. What matters is that people should go watch the movie. It's the most hype any SA movie has ever gotten... Why you ask?...well go see for yourself.
Leezl 2005/10/05 10:58 AM
Podcasts rock !!! I think that MWEB should start the petition to get that Benoni sign put up on the highest mine dump !!
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.