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Schuks! Pay Back the Money!
Genre Comedy
 
Review:

South Africa's most famous prankster is at it again in Schuks! Pay Back the Money! While the cheap movie trailer lowers expectations, the actual film isn't quite as bad... making a reasonable flipside to Schuks! Your Country Needs You. While we thought comedian, Rob Van Vuuren, was being groomed to become "son of Schuster", giving longtime companion Alfred "Shorty" Ntombela, a run for his money - neither return for Schuks! Pay Back the Money! Instead Schuster is essentially flying solo, playing off Desmond Dube as the dubious Sports Minister, who cuts a deal with Schuks after he loses the actual Currie Cup.

Schuster is commissioned to film a documentary showing South Africa in a positive light instead of paying a R1 million fine. While the word "documentary" is used quite loosely and the thumbsuck fine for losing the holy grail of SA sport is more of a bribe when you consider Schuster's box office history, it all fits in the cartoonish world of Schuks. As usual, the over-the-top story concept and characters are just there to connect the candid camera sketches, but its so painfully lame and void of genuine laughs - you wonder why Schuks didn't rely on animation, or just introduce each sketch as himself.

Schuster's realised his strength is in candid comedy, returning once again to the very thing that launched his film career. In many ways, each of his films represents a slice-of-life and time capsule for the state of the nation in its most transitional phases. While criticised for "blackface" and lauded for opening weekend takings, Schuster's films have never really discriminated when it comes to laughs, making every South African susceptible to a bit of Schuks! mischief.

While he looks somewhat melancholic in the painful live-action cartoon reality he and his candid camera comedy are embedded in, he's more than up to the challenge of playing a host of characters including: official, judge, TV anchor, tycoon, producer, chef and parking attendant. The prosthetic make up is almost as convincing as Schuster's unflappable performance and protects his face and identity. He's instantly recognisable after decades of pranking South Africans and who can blame him for wanting to keep his jaw intact from the odd klap? It does feel like he's hit the camera in the ceiling and perhaps it's time Schuster took on a dramatic role to mix things up a bit.

Schuks! Pay Back the Money! pokes fun at South Africa as service delivery gripes are targeted: bottle store restrictions, portaloo toilets, Eskom "starter packs" and a court appointment for Robbie Wessels line the thematic comedy. Although, it's not all about government woes with some hilarious gags involving recording studios and a Chinese bigwig. Schuster's never shyed away from provoking his marks to fight-or-flight, but has moved to prodding entire communities and stadiums in his latest films. You sense an overall frustration with authority from South Africans, whose responses are often just as audacious as Schuster's larger-than-life characters.

Just like the Step Up series, you wouldn't go and watch a Schuks! movie for the acting or story. The main attraction is laughing (not dancing) and in a very serious South Africa, belly laughs are worth sitting through a few dumb and puerile story transitions. Schuks! Pay Back the Money! features some edgy and funny candid camera comedy and some rather irritating interludes, which makes it a mixed bag... one that you'll probably enjoy if you liked Schuks! Your Country Needs You.

The bottom line: Lopsided


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