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Felix is a feel good family comedy drama that you will cherish for it's fun, exuberant and sweet-natured tone. This delightful underdog story arrives in the wake of Spud and has been dubbed "Billy Elliott with Cape Jazz". It's wholeheartedly entertaining and difficult not to like, owing to a positively charming ensemble, a spirited story about a boy with a dream and lively local jazz.

When young Felix Xaba enrolls at an elitist private school in Cape Town on a scholarship, his dream of becoming a saxophonist like his late father drives him to audition for a school jazz concert. With the help of two aging members from his father's old band, Felix prepares to participate, against his mother's wishes.

The title character is played by Hlayani Junior Mabasa, who was selected from over 500 auditions across South Africa. Mabasa has an innocent and willful spirit, one that translates beautifully into the equally open and tenacious character of Felix. While small in stature, Felix's quest to rise above his circumstances at all costs makes this fish-out-of-water comedy music drama admirable and endearing.

He's supported by a host of talents, including: Oscar-nominee Dame Janet Suzman as Mrs. Cartwright, Linda Sokhulu as Lindiwe, Andre Jacobs as Mr. Murray and Nicholas Ellenborgen as Mr. Soames. Felix marks the first South African feature film for Johannesburg-born Suzman and SAFTA-winning actress, Sokhulu. Both actresses deliver heartfelt performances that give great depth and swell to the emotional undercurrents.

Director, Roberta Durrant, has ensured that every performance carries the same jubilant spirit. The cast's chemistry makes it seem like this was a family affair and there's a synergy between the actors that seems to bring the story together. This liveliness is enhanced by a catchy soundtrack produced by musical director Murray Anderson, who worked closely with talented and award-winning artists: Mark Fransman, Bokani Dyer and Lwanda Gogwana.

Shirley Johnston's award-winning, intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny script, is the first that SAFTA lifetime achievement winner, Durrant, has chosen to direct after making a name for herself as a creative producer. While about a boy, Felix is one of the most female-empowered film productions to come out of South Africa, made up of director, writer, editor, cinematographer, line producer, art director, wardrobe stylist and hair/make up artist.

Felix's gentle idealism is refreshing and carries throughout the film. There's a Madam & Eve essence to the production, featuring well-rounded characters who are animated enough to have their own comic strip. The relentless enthusiasm sometimes seems rainbow nation surreal, despite efforts to chide the irrepressible characters with echoes of alcoholism, threats of bullying and overriding economic disparities.

It's no secret Felix is a crowd-pleaser, leveraging classic formula to great effect with reach for a dream determinism. The emotion will resonate with all audiences, but will ring true for South Africans, who have special social, economic and political insights. While it deals with the haves and the have-nots, Felix is a film that unifies through music and comedy, cutting across racial lines with an optimistic message.

While wide-eyed and formulaic, Felix oozes enough natural charm to override its flaws and constraints. You won't be able to resist Felix's upbeat tempo, jolly disposition, feel-good music, sharp-witted script and spirited underdog story. It's the sort of film that starts off slow and gently cocoons you with its infectious tone and crowd-pleasing mix of entertainment as it gathers speed.

The bottom line: Irresistible

9.00/10 ( 2 Votes )
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