Running Riot

2007-01-16 17:35

Tjokkie and Crispin are back again – and this time they’re taking on the Comrades Marathon. After a run-in at the local pub, Crispin (Paul Slabolepszy) has managed to get himself into a R5000 bet with Ratkas Koekemoer (Brendan Grealy) that he will finish the marathon ahead of him. Luckily the faithful Tjokkie (Bill Flynn) is on hand to get him ready for the big race. But training Crispin is going to be the least of Tjokkie’s problems. No sooner have they arrived in Durban than Crispin has landed himself a hot date with a Russian runner named Svetlana (Vanessa Harris), who is out for revenge on her enormous (and enormously jealous) boyfriend Valdimir (Robin Smith). Even worse, Crispin’s wife has hired a pair of private detectives (Nazli George and Joey Rasdien) to make sure he doesn’t stray. Suddenly that 90km run is looking like the easy part of this trip.


You have to hand it to Bill Flynn and Paul Slabolepszy. Together they have built what amounts to a highly successful entertainment franchise around a pair of provincial idiots. Starting with Heel Against The Head, first on stage and then screen, they have made Tjokkie and Crispin into household names.

But while the characters may be idiots, their creators are as canny as they come. Flynn and Slabolepszy know what sells, and the mix of sport, beer, babes and boobery has been calculated to a nicety. But, however cynical their methods might sound, they are entertainers at heart and get genuine pleasure from making people laugh.

With Running Riot they are following the tried and trusted route once again by turning a successful stage comedy into film. Like Heel Against the Head it’s really just a variation on a bedroom farce, full of bawdy jokes, misunderstandings and sexual indiscretions (or the promise of them at any rate). Whether you find it funny depends very much on whether you enjoy this kind of humour.

It also depends heavily on whether you find the lead characters amusing and charming, or just boorish and anachronistic. In truth they are all of these things, which may account, perversely enough, for their success. Watching these caricatures of a narrow, small-town, old-South-African mindset, you start to wonder “Do these guys really exist anymore?” But that is the whole secret. Tjokkie and Crispin have attained a measure of that rarefied status – the universal idiots.

Like a local Laurel and Hardy, these two are idiots to everyone. To people around the country they represent the dumb jerks from the rival town, the country hicks fouling up the city, the opposing sports team from the neighbouring district. Viewed from this perspective, everyone is comfortable with laughing at these hapless fools, and everyone is equally ready to sympathise with their self-inflicted plight.

However universal their characters may be, the comedy they peddle is as creaky and predictable as an ancient cast iron appliance. Even by the standards of Heel Against the Head, Running Riot is tame fare. Yes, there are sprinkles of mischievous brilliance and some amusing interludes (the training sequences are particularly fun), but there’s nothing particularly new or exciting here. They also tend to stretch the original plot a little too thin for the movie, and the action often circles back on itself to make up time.

Viewed in context, there’s nothing essentially wrong with Running Riot, it gets the job done. The filmmaking is proficient enough to keep the story ticking over, never showy but also never very inspiring. The story is peopled by caricatures and types, and none of the supporting cast have trouble living up to this limited scope, despite the heavy Russian accents some of them are forced to affect.

The only person who appears out of place is a rather woebegone Bruce Fordyce, who spends the film in a state of permanent puzzlement. As for Flynn and Slabolepszy, they wear their characters like comfortable old suits, which gives them palpability that the rest of the cast lack.

In short it’s another mischievous crowd-pleaser from a pair of seasoned war-horses. Say what you might about them, Flynn and Slabolepszy know what their fans want, and they’re going to give it to them in shovel loads. Everyone else had better stand well clear.

- Alistair Fairweather
Running Riot delivers exactly what it promises - a boisterous mix of sport, slapstick and bedroom farce. Don't say we didn't warn you.

paul 2006/12/15 9:56 AM
running riot there are so many good moveies out there - leave these alone they are not worth the celluloid
sipho ndlovu 2006/12/21 1:07 PM
pretoria included i was taken by this movie just because this time they have included supporting cast and extras from pretoria/the whole comedy was exciting and fun/go running riot/in second thought i prefare mr bones than other south african comedies
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