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The Jakes Are Missing
Genre Comedy
 
Review:

The Jakes Are Missing isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, it's trying to be a crime comedy caper with a South African flavour and Hollywood values. We're introduced to the Jakes, a South African family with more than one parallel to the Banks family of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Their son is neither Carlton nor Will, but manages to stumble his way into a crime scene, before necessitating their enrolment in a witness protection programme.

The pictureque town of Clarens becomes the backdrop for this urban-to-rural escapade. The Jakes family have to integrate themselves into a homespun culture, where the local minister takes people in as part of the witness protection, and the hair salon is where you can catch up on the latest gossip. The Jakes Are Missing is part fish-out-of-water comedy and part crime caper as an affluent family try to forget about the big city and fit in with small town life as a gang of criminals try to track them down. While not nearly as violent, it has similarities with The Family, and elements from For Richer or Poorer.

The Jakes Are Missing stars Mampho Brescia, Pope Jerrod and Mpho Sebeng as Janice, Donald and young Simon. Brescia is perfectly cast as a go-getting lawyer and part- time Mom struggling to balance her priorities. She has the attitude, beauty and charm to keep us guessing as we try to figure her out. Jerrod is Mr. Smooth, a kind, smart and attractive man trying to save his marriage and keep his son in check. Sebeng is an insightful teenager and music geek, enjoying the time out and trying to get close to the minister's daughter and high school sweetheart.

It's a fun, lightweight film with enough bounce to keep you watching. You may recognise Jody Abrahams, Darlington Michaels, Craig Palm and Nomzamo Mbatha. While types, the characters have enough spunk and the performances enough charm to amuse. The production has a sleek look-and-feel and the film-makers have elevated the quality of the film with aerial photography, choice locations and fluid cinematography.

Unfortunately, The Jakes Are Missing is having a genre identity crisis. Punted as a romance, a drama and all-of-the-above... the formulaic witness protection plot would suggest comedy. While it has an amusing tone, it never really threatens to spill into the aisles. The situational comedy isn't leveraged to its full potential and the wishy-washy plotting leaves things in laughter limbo. You can handle predictable if it's laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining, but The Jakes Are Missing is bland and never rises to this level.

The characters are interesting enough, but the story lacks cohesion and clarity, almost moving by association. It makes for passable entertainment as we're settling into the new town and coasting on the novelty of fresh characters, but the wheels start to fall off as soon as the film realises it needs an ending. A sweet local music competition, a major fumble from the criminals, a bit of love and cue the credits.

While it works smoothly from cast to crew, it just feels like the script needed more oomph. The tension is an afterthought, the comedy isn't exploited and while almost touching, the film hasn't earned our empathy diminishing the overall entertainment value. The Jakes Are Missing has a dull familiarity and an inherent laziness to it, rolling on without anyone really wanting to own it.

The bottom line: Half-baked

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