Rainbow Skellums is the latest candid camera phenomenon to hit South Africa, produced, written and directed by Andre Scholtz (Panic Mechanic) and starring Louw Venter (T.M.A.S), Kevin Ehrenreich and Alexa Strachan. Leon Schuster is the Godfather of candid comedy in South Africa with his off-the-cuff, on-the-spot and distinctly South African disguise comedy, which is all about reeling the target in and catching the big one. Schuster's You Must Be Joking and Panic Mechanic eptiomise this brand of comedy, which is often brave and often hilarious. Candid comedy is a South African tradition and has been since 1977, when Kobus Kruger and Jamie Uys's Funny People hit the circuit cutting through a cross-section of South African culture and injecting a bit of cheeky fun into everyday scenarios.
Schuster took a page from "Hannibal" Smith's comic disguises in the popular A-Team TV series and another page from Uys's Funny People to create a sketch show, which allowed everyone to look in the mirror and have a good laugh. Schuster's classic take on traffic cops branched into characters of every race, language and colour in the new South Africa, making his character comedy accessible to everyone at a time when South Africa just needed a good laugh. Schuster has embarked on bigger projects since the days of candid camera, racking up some of South Africa's biggest box office hits including: Mr. Bones and Mr. Bones 2, falling back on the candid inserts in films like Oh Schucks... I'm Gatvol.
Now Rainbow Skellums takes a stab at the very South African "Candid Camera" comedy phenomenon. It's not pretty... but it's often funny. Louw Venter, Kevin Ehrenreich and Alexa Strachan create the perfect conditions for comedy with scenarios involving: whispering coffins, security guard panic, pizza (baby) delivery and being a general nuisance. Some of the skits are as simple as a guy browsing rentals with a fart remote in a video store to more complicated set-ups involving UFO spacecraft, police and an unsuspecting farming community.
Most of the pranks work, but they're met with varying degrees of success... from slightly amusing wrongful "celebrity" arrests on a golf course to smarter sketches involving an excess weight charge for taxi passengers. The pay off is what's most important in Rainbow Skellums and it gathers momentum after a very cheap looking start to the shenanigans. The team prank people all over South Africa with their advantage being that they're relatively anonymous, making their light disguises less conspicuous than Schuster's full-blown get-up.
Rainbow Skellums may not have the character comedy bravado of a Leon Schuster movie, but they have some interesting set-ups with surprising pay-offs. It's definitely a step in the right direction, despite the low budget and product placements, making Rainbow Skellums the sort of film that South Africans will just love. It's not on the same level as Funny People, but would definitely give films like Panic Mechanic a run for their funny if it weren't for Schuster's star presence.
Rainbow Skellums is cheap, but fresh... harnessing the power of group pranks involving media and police. While their skits don't always hit the sweet spot, they're amusing enough to keep watching to see what else these mischievous "Skellums" have up their sleeves. If Leon Schuster's films appeal to you, then this candid comedy movie will go down well with a box of popcorn. If not, you'd best steer clear of this one. Hopefully with a little more money, confidence and time, the next Rainbow Skellums will be a little more polished as a finished product.
The bottom line: Lightweight