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Finding Lenny
Genre Comedy
Year: 2009

Finding Lenny is Barry Hilton’s long-awaited debut on the big screen. “The Cousin” is a legend when it comes to stand up comedy, and he brings a South African flavour to his comic twist on everyday situations. He’s instantly recognisable and stars in his own TV Series, Funny You Should Say That and appears in a number of commercials, most notably Savannah. Candid comedian Leon Schuster is currently the movie mogul when it comes to South African comedy, churning out record-breaking hits like Mr. Bones, Mama Jack and Mr. Bones 2. However, there’s also a big market for clean South African comedy in the style of Barry Hilton. The Cousin’s years of entertainment experience allow for a fairly natural transition to film in Finding Lenny, and despite the film’s problems it adds up to a light-hearted, predictable and enjoyable trip to the cinema - reminiscent of Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy/sport movie, Ladybugs.

Finding Lenny tells the story of Lenny Vincent, a long-time sports writer, who finds himself on the wrong end of the knobkerrie on his 50th birthday. In a 24-hour blitz of tough luck he loses his under 11B soccer team, his job, his wife and almost his life when he and his best friend David (Russel Savadier), get caught in the middle of a restaurant robbery. However, “everything happens for a reason” and Lenny soon finds himself at the mercy of a small rural village, where he learns of a bitter sibling rivalry. The Chief’s sons, Godfrey (Dabula) and Gift (Hlatshwayo), are fighting for their ancestral land: one wanting to sell out to golf course developers and the other wanting to keep it in the family. Chief (Yule Masiteng) decides to settle the dispute with a soccer match on condition that he Lenny coaches his team, The Mighty Spears. Lenny slowly starts to pick up the pieces with the help of David, Chief, The Mighty Spears and Kathleen (Catriona Andrew).

Barry Hilton is one of South Africa’s best-loved comedians and it’s becoming increasingly popular for comedians to get their own TV show, with a transition to the big screen. The Cousin has an amazing stage presence comparable with Jerry Seinfeld, brandishing his clean brand of comedy and echoing the same sentiment in his TV show. Seinfeld’s comedy is full of charisma when he can just be himself, however he’d be the first to admit that he’s more suited to stand-up than being an actor. The Cousin finds himself in the same predicament… South African audiences expect Lenny and Barry to be interchangeable. However, Hilton doesn’t carry the same charisma from his comedy to his performance as Lenny. This could be attributed to his film debut, shaking off the nerves or perhaps he needed more say in the scriptwriting process. Russel Savadier and Neal Sundstrom take writing credits for Finding Lenny and were probably expecting a little improv from the comic.

The story is Proudly South African, punting the game of soccer in anticipation of the World Cup with cameos from Mark Fish and Phil Masinga. However, it’s riddled with cliches and the focus shifts from Lenny to the squabble over sacred land and big business steamrolling. Lenny is a significant cog in the second half of the film, however his reawakening lacks the focus that a title character deserves. Ironically, the shift in focus gives the Cousin some breathing room and he’s able to spread his buffalo wings. The movie seemed ready to schism at some points as both main plots rallied for prime position. Luckily, Hilton was able to reclaim Finding Lenny with a stirring half-time speech, which pulled all the strings together.

Finding Lenny works because it has real South African flavour… braai spice or diversity - this movie cooks! The performances are entertaining, the story is fun and heartwarming, the comedy is light and situational and the soundtrack is comprised of some strong, rich and moving homegrown music. Finding Lenny and Barry Hilton take a little while to warm up, but things start to improve after the sluggish set up in the first-half. Finding Lenny isn’t as funny as you’d expect and may be a little predictable at times, but it’s got the right ingredients to make a feel good movie with a lot of heart!

The bottom line: Amusing.

7.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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