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Film / The Gods Must Be Crazy

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Modern society in a nutshell (or rather bottle): weird, repulsive and mad.

The Gods Must Be Crazy! is a classic low budget film from South Africa from the 1980s directed by Jamie Uys (Animals Are Beautiful People).

Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert who lived in harmony with each other and with the harsh environment. Then, one day, an empty Coca-Cola bottle (the classic heavy glass style) falls from the sky. We, the viewers, can see it came from an airplane, but as far as the tribe is concerned, it came from the gods.

The Coca-Cola bottle is very useful as an improvised, multi-purpose tool. However, there is only one, which inevitably leads to conflict; and since it is harder than anything that can naturally be found in the Kalahari Desert, someone gets hurt. For the sake of the harmony of the tribe, one of their members, Xi, is tasked with dropping it off the edge of the earth.

We cut to a modern South African city to establish some "tribal" habits of the "civilized" people in the film (Translation Convention is not necessary as most South Africans can speak English while Xi and the other bushmen are unfamiliar with the language). A couple of these city-inhabitants set out on their own quests, and they inevitably cross paths with Xi. Hilarity (genuinely) Ensues.

The film was an instant hit (despite being low budget) and was a Star-Making Role for N!xau (who played Xi, himself being a real bushman). The second film, simply titled The Gods Must Be Crazy II, was more or less as good as the first, if a bit too similar.

N!xau's popularity had him being cast in a series of comedies made by a Hong Kong company in which, rather than being called Xi Xo, he goes by his real name. Although never intended to be sequels to the original film (as the titles and plots of the films were entirely different), they were eventually released under "The gods must be crazy", added with a sequel number. The original Chinese title of the fifth film even translates to "The Gods must be funny in China" as a nod to the original film. Let's just say that these films were quite different from the original ones:

Crazy Safari featured Xi helping some Chinese people who were transporting a Chinese mummy/vampire when their plane crashed. It ends with the Chinese Zombie fighting an African voodoo zombie.

Crazy Hong Kong takes the Fish out of Water concept up to eleven by having Xi get stranded in modern urban Hong Kong and get into various hilarious situations.

The Gods Must Be Funny in China. N!xau now lives in a small village in China, often giving lessons about his native country. He also learned to fully speak Chinese (in reality he never did and his voice was simply overdubbed by a Chinese actor) and communicate with them. A sports promoter notices how fast he can run and manages to persuade him to enter a marathon. Hilarity Ensues as he and his team get lost during the race and in the meantime save pandas from mad poachers.

Tropes present in this film:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: When Ann is being chased by the rhino, she runs in a straight line until she hits a tree and climbs it.
  • The Ace: Jack Hind to Steyn. He's got his own Cool Car!
  • Affably Evil: The soldiers in the second film, and the assistant poacher, though he is more of a Harmless Villain.
  • African Terrorists: Sam Boga and his men.
  • The Alleged Car: The Land Rover in the first film, which is such a troublesome vehicle that the characters actually nickname it "The Antichrist" or "Son of Malakka" for Africans: it takes multiple people and a horse to get it started, one of the doors is permanently stuck and needs to be lifted off its hinges to open it, the handbrake is broken and its horn has a tendency to stick. The plane in the second film becomes its spiritual successor.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Early on in 2, the bushplane's engine starts sputtering in midair. The pilot grabs a bottle of booze (to the passenger's horror) and proceeds to refuel the plane in flight.
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Naturally, being in Africa, there are tons of animals that fill the role. Subverted in the second movie, where the animals' lack of reaction is used as a clue that they've never met humans.
  • Apple of Discord: The Coke bottle to the Bushmen. When they realize what the tribe's fight for the bottle has done, they task Xi with ridding them of it.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The filmmakers didn't care what Nǃxau actually said during his scenes, since most of the audience wouldn't understand him anyway. The narrator always explains what Xi is supposed to be saying. Nǃxau said whatever he wanted, which often wasn't in character.
  • Badass Bystander: One of the guerrillas who attacks the president is knocked unconscious by a potted plant a female office worker throws at him.
  • Banana Peel: One guerrilla manages to slip on an entire bunch.
  • Big Bad: All five films. The African Terrorists in the first film, the poachers/ivory dealers in the second, diamond thieves in the third, smugglers in the fourth and panda thieves in the fifth and last film.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Nǃxau was never given anything specific to say, so he made up his own lines, often mocking the artificiality of the scene he's in. The documentary N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman shows the final homecoming scene with subtitles for Nǃxau's words. Although the scene is supposed to play out like a triumphant return, Nǃxau is chastising the tribe for not rushing out to greet him immediately, as they would normally do if the scene were real.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The president of Burani and his cabinet get shot up by terrorists, a few of those terrorists are shot by police. Not a single drop of blood or a gunshot wound is shown, making them basically simply drop dead for no reason.
  • Bulungi: Burani, the country whose cabinet gets shot up by Sam Boga's men. It apparently borders Botswana.
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Andrew Steyn.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Boet Troskie and Jamie Uys considered the three spin-off films - Crazy Safari, Crazy Hong Kong and The Gods Must Be Funny in China - not canon to the original two at all. The fact that these rarely got reprinted as well likely solidifies it.
  • Catchphrase
    • Ai yai yai yai yai.
    • I noticed.
    • I don't want to talk about it.
    • Yes, boss?
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The Coke bottle. The main reason why Xi decides to toss it off the edge of the world is because the damned thing refuses to leave his side until that point.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: In the second movie, Ann's dress gets lifted up a couple of times as she's partially fallen out of the plane and is running on the ground to keep up with its movement.
  • Cool Car: The car camouflaged as a bush in the second movie.
    • Hind's car in the first film as well.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Done various times. One notable example involves when Xi shoots the goat. He erroneously believes it is food to eat, but fails to realize that this is the shepherd's goat. He cordially greets the angry shepherd, assuming that he is to share the feast. More hilarious confusion entails, but this eventually becomes Dramatically Missing the Point as Xi gets shot in the leg and arrested for this confusion.
  • Culture Clash: One of the central themes of the movie. A lot of situations both comedic and serious happen to Xi because of this.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Jack in the second movie is a charming pilot who tries to romance a visitor from the city and invites her on a flight with him. He departs the story when the vet (and pilot) they're visiting gets an emergency call and the plane doesn't have room for all three of them, forcing Jack to stay behind since it would be unfair to leave Ann out there alone.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Xi considers the attractive heroine to be the "ugliest person he has ever seen": he thinks she's as pale as a corpse, that her hair is long and stringy like an old man's and that since she's so tall, she must require tons of food.
  • Disguised in Drag: Xi pretends to be one of the hostages so he can get close enough to tranquilize the terrorists. More justified than you would think, as Xi is quite small and slender.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Steyn, after Hind takes the credit for rescuing the schoolchildren. Subverted in that Kate knows the real truth and properly rewards Steyn.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: Quite a few scenes (especially chases) are overcranked, making the wild gestures of everybody look even more cartoony.
  • Genius Ditz: Andrew Steyn: he's turns into a complete klutz at the presense of a woman, but he's the one who figures out that the large group of people walking below are hostages and figures out a way to disable them by having Xi disguise himself as one of the children and put the terrorists to sleep with a miniature bow laced with a tranquilizer.
  • Go Back to the Source: After the Coke bottle lands in the village, the residents decide that it has brought grief and misery to them, so Xi volunteers to take it to the end of the earth, located at "God's Window", in Blyde River Canyon Nature Preserve.
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: During the climax, Xi attempts to drive the Land Rover, but, due to inexperience, winds up putting it in reverse. Rather than attempt to correct his mistake, he simply stands on the hood and steers it backwards.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Subverted twice. The terrorist being interrogated spills the beans only after being pushed to his death—actually a joke as the helicopter hasn't even taken off yet, but he talks because the interrogator says that the next time they ask, he'll be getting dropped from higher up.
  • Hilarity Ensues: The main drive of all of the films in the series, starting with seeing what happens when some random litterbug tosses a Coke bottle in the middle of the African savannah.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: While trying to get breakfast going over the morning campfire, Dr. Steyn steps on a hot coal with bare feet and twirls in place hopping and clutching his hurt foot. A confused Kate returns and asks what the hell he's doing:
    Steyn: ...I'm making coffee.
  • Hyperlink Story: Both films, with Xi's story serving as the backbone each time.
  • I Call It "Vera": The Antichrist, a most temperamental offroad vehicle. Subverted in that it's not good affections that earned it the name.
  • Idiosyncratic Cultural Gesture: When a rhino stomps out their campfire, Steyn tries to Kate explain that this is a thing that happens when she accuses him of doing it. He even asks some local tribesmen, but he forgot that the tribe in question shake their head for "yes" and nod for "no", meaning that Kate finds him even less credulous, despite the fact that the tribesmen are actually confirming his account of things.
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Xi runs into Kate in her underwear, but the narrator helpfully tells us that he finds her to be the ugliest woman he's ever seen.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Andrew Steyn becomes quite a Badass to help save Kate and the village children.
  • Littering Is No Big Deal: Averted. Someone's inconsiderate disposal of a Coke bottle starts the whole plot in motion.
  • Little Hero, Big War: There's a border conflict happening in the second movie's backdrop, which is represented by two isolated enemy soldiers trying to take each other prisoner before they end up helping Xi rescue his children.
  • MacGyvering: The bushmen actually make some pretty good use of the Coke bottle as a tool for their regular activities. The main problem then becomes that they only have the one bottle.
  • Mad God: The view that the Bushmen take after the Coke bottle from the sky causes so much trouble. Goes hand-in-hand with Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack Hind, Steyn's "jackass" friend, who constantly mocks Steyn at the presence of a third person, thinks of nothing but saving his own hide at the first sign of danger, and takes credit for Steyn's brave actions at the end.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In an otherwise cute and slapsticky film, there's a scene where guerrillas slaughter a roomful of people with machine gun fire (right after they kick the doors open and have them comically rebound off the walls and slam shut in their faces again).
    • A hilarious, slapstick battle between the guerrillas and a helicopter with a few Mauve Shirt characters onboard takes a darker tone when the guerrillas finally manage to properly load their rocket launcher and blow the helicopter out of the sky.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ann Taylor considering how many times her underwear is shown.
  • Narrator: Done very properly in that only the scenes which focus on Xi have narration. It, of course, adds to the hilarity.
  • National Geographic Nudity: The Bushmen wear very little clothing (naturally, as they don't need it) and Xi is surprised when he sees a woman wearing a dress for the first time. He even points out how impractical it is in the African climate.
  • Noble Savage: There is a reason why Xi was chosen to dispose of the bottle after all. Each sequel only serves to make him more intelligent.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: The conclusion the Bushmen draw about the Coke bottle. It's extremely useful, but also one-of-a-kind. This is a totally new problem since in their experience there is no such thing as a unique object in their world. Everything the bushmen use is either available in abundance or can be made so ownership isn't a concept.
  • Noodle Incident: An in-universe example, as the audience sees what happens with the rhinoceros, but neither of the characters involved tell the whole story to anyone else.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: The President and several cabinet members are still seen sitting in their offices with a few bandages giving orders immediately after Boga's assassination attempt, and a wounded terrorist prisoner isn't hurt badly enough to keep him from being dragged along with the pursuit force without showing any ill effects.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Especially when they're Chinese vampire/mummy hybrids!
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The third film gives us an African zombie and a towering one at that.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Coke bottle for the bushmen; white society in general for Xi.
  • Pet the Dog: Terrorist leader Sam Boga acknowledging Kate's point and demanding that the army leave out food and water for the schoolchildren he's taken hostage twice as often as his initial demand is a standard case of Pragmatic Villainy, but also making sure the military commanders are informed that he made a mistake in failing to plan ahead was somewhat decent of him, since he certainly didn't have to.
  • Product Placement: One has to wonder whether Coca-Cola paid any money to have their product so prominently displayed, yet as a representation of Western culture's negative impact on indigenous people.
  • The Quest: Find the end of the world, throw the bottle off of it. Ultimately, Xi finds himself on a cliff far higher than he's probably ever stood in his life, above the cloudsnote . Understandably, he decides he's there, chucks the bottle off and goes home.
  • Rhino Rampage: Subverted. They're pretty calm when they do their civic duty of stamping out fires.
  • Running Gag: The two guys playing cards in the guerrilla gang.
  • Scary Black Man: A tall African zombie.
  • Scenery Porn: The African savannah, the Chinese wilderness, and other places are presented in all of their majesty as all kinds of funny hell are breaking loose. The finale especially indulges in this, as Xi stands on God's Window, a cliff so high up that there are clouds beneath him. Naturally, he decides this has to count as "the end of the world".
  • Shout Outs:
    Radio: The president, who miraculously survived the hail of bullets with only a flesh wound, will be addressing the nation in a few moments.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The airplane pilot that tossed the empty Coke bottle out of his plane, starting the entire plot of the film.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Andrew Steyn around women. Many of the comedic moments in the film are when he's around Kate.
  • Soft Glass: Incredibly averted. To the Bushmen, the glass bottle is the hardest material they've ever discovered. It didn't even break when dropped out of an airplane (admittedly, it landed in a patch of soft sand).
  • Straight Man: Mpudi. Also serves as the bridge of communication between Xi and modern culture.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The honey badger in the second film.
  • Those Two Guys: The Master and his cowardly assistant in the third film.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: A lampshaded subversion explicitly explains that tranquilizer darts don't take effect immediately. That's why they are rigged to be so easily removed that the victim doesn't know they've been tranqed (they feel only the sting, that can be attributed to insects).
  • Under Crank: The film's slapstick comedy makes thorough use of the technique, especially seen when the truck accidentally takes two young kids.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Bushmen's language, with its use of various clicks, is virtually unpronounceable to anyone else and Mpudi. And of course, the Bushmen think this of every other language.
    Narrator: The hairy one could speak.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Whoever decided it was a good idea to toss a Coke bottle out the window of their plane. Seriously, we never find out anything about this litterbug.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: In the first film, after Xi immobilizes the terrorists with a blow-dart gun, with Kate and the children being rescued afterwards, Steyn attempts to give Xi money, with his assistant Mpudi trying in vain to tell him that Xi's tribe has no concept of money nor use for it; Steyn urges Xi to take the money because it's the law. After Xi reluctantly accepts the money and leaves, he just throws it away afterwards.