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City Press reviews: Uzalo – too much hype, too little screen value

2015-02-11 12:24

Johannesburg - Much-hyped new telenovela Uzalo premiered on SABC1, trending nationally to an outpouring of mostly love, but also a good bit of meh.

The epic tale of two families and two babies switched at birth – pitting church against crime – was produced by Gugu Zuma-Ncube and Duma Ndlovu and stars national darling Leleti Khumalo as well as a pack of new faces. It goes head-to-head with pay channel Mzansi Magic’s popular drama Isibaya in the 20:30 slot.

Early opinions from viewers could be summed up as:

We kind of agree, but we’re not as convinced as the show’s vociferous fans.

Uzalo has a whole lot of heart, but it was not nearly as good as the hype leading to its premiere suggested it would be. It has some serious problems with delivering consistent, strong screen value.

After the epic baby-switch opening, the ensuing fight scene was hollow. It started well enough with a speeding and screeching BMW. But when it came to the crunch, the beating of some poor guy, there was no, er, crunch. A staged fight without kicking and punching sound effects looks like a staged fight and not the real thing.

We were also disappointed by the church scene, which featured the pastor’s family and pretty much no-one else. A few more extras please.

The father-son story line featuring patriarch Muzi Xulu’s conflict with his son Mxolisi (played by talented newcomer Naymaps Maphalala) shows plenty of promise.

The charming pastor Melusi Mdletshe (played by Bheki Mkhwane) is not too bad, but his dialogue needs to change from Isibaya to Uzalo. The man speaks as if he is singing. It might have worked on Isibaya but it’s starting to be one-dimensional.

Leleti Khumalo did not disappoint either as his wife. Her mild-mannered character is full of grace. At least for now!

Another interesting storyline is that of a young lady, Cindy, whose mother is ill and a diagnosis cannot be determined.

But neither of us is convinced that we will be quitting Isibaya. Our friends and housemates were angry with us for switching over to Uzalo because they were ardent Isibaya fans.

Gcina Mhlope’s narration and the beauty of the KwaMashu setting are things of joy.

For us to make the switch, Uzalo is going to have to offer more consistent performance and much sharper screen value. For now we’ll stay tuned in to see if it ups its game.

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