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The Gods Must Be Crazy
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Gods Must Be Crazy is a charming '80s classic that reveals the follies of the modern world from the perspective of a native Kalahari bushman. There are several gunfights, including a political massacre when guerillas burst into a cabinet meeting and shoot wildly, but the violence has a slapstick quality to it that takes some of the edge off.
Unlike the listing says, there is a lot of cultural nudity in the beginning including many topless women. So be prepared. There is also some language like GD, bloody, bastard,hell but not a lot. I watched this as a kid and didn't really remember it except that it was funny. It was funny but not as much as i remembered.
A Gentle and Lighthearted Film, Combining Easygoing Comedy with a Unique Sociological Viewpoint
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a very sweet, kind-hearted comedy, back from the pre-South Park days when comedies were able to be sweet and kind-hearted (nothing against South Park itself, mind you). It tackles some darker themes and contains intense, in concept, story-beats, but it's such a breezy film that even the climax, which involves machineguns and child hostages, keeps you engaged but never makes you fearful. It contrasts a wise and observant Bushman against "civilized" people who he interacts with on his way to the edge of the world, which he is trying to reach to rid the world of a Coke bottle; this sounds like a joke, but the movie's opening sequence (which I would refer to as an extended Prologue, rather than a First Act) smartly shows how the bottle, because of its beauty and versatility, has caused their society's first real inner-conflict, as it made people, for the first time ever, wish to have something and refuse to share it with the others.
The title 'The Gods Must Be Crazy' is in reference to this, as rather than seeing this as an evil act by their gods, the Bushmen see it as a clumsy miscalculation on their part (their main observation being that the gods only sent one). And while the movie has various plot-threads, the one of the main Bushman walking to the end of the Earth is the main one. Fortunately, the movie does not go for the easy fish-out-of-water gags, such as the Bushman being on a city bus or trying to interact with a phone or radio, the film wisely keeps things in a rural setting, and keeps things on a small an intimate level. There are plenty of gags, most visual, but none are to the Bushman's expense, the closest exceptions being when the narrator explains how the Bushman is processing the oddities of modern technological human (like where he sees a slow moving car, and describes it as "a most strange animal, whose legs moved round and round instead of up and down"). There are no intense emotional beats (like him coming across many bottles in a bin, and being mortified), and the hardships that he experiences are shown to be grueling, but not at all crippling, or enough to break his spirit or determination.
Probably the best thing about this movie is that the main character of the Bushman is not only smart, but he's actually the most level-headed, with technological humans shown to live a life that is equal parts better and worse than his; they have more comfort and convenience, but the complications of it are exhausting. And he, along with the other main heroes, do part ways on a very positive note of good-will. In a sense, the movie is telling us that both are good, but maybe the proud members of technological society should take a queue from the Bushmen, who live happier lives simply due to the lack of day-to-day headaches.
This film is a great watch for kids, as the comedic beats are done perfectly in ways that will make them laugh, and the darker, more serious aspects are those that they will discover when they watch it older, adding a layer of depth. In a sense you could say it works in the same way that Robocop does, but in the opposite way: Robocop is a movie that attracts kids because it has robots, guns, explosions and swears, and it's only when they get older that they realize that it has a bigger message - The Gods Must Be Crazy is exactly the same, only instead here, kids love it because it's high-energy, wacky and has a carefree tone, hiding a bigger message underneath.
A pilot absentmindedly drops an empty Coke bottle into the middle of the Kalahari desert, where it's retrieved by a primitive and isolated tribe of bushmen. They've never seen anything like it, and quickly find many helpful uses for this unusual object. But soon, they're fighting over it and one of them decides, for the good of the tribe, that he must take it to the edge of the world (otherwise known as civilization) and get rid of it. He's soon embroiled in a madcap adventure that includes a bumbling anthropologist (Marius Weyers), a new schoolteacher (Sandra Prinsloo), and an attempted coup perpetrated by a dangerous revolutionary.
Is It Any Good?
Summarizing THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY doesn't do justice to the film. The story contains so many disparate elements that putting them all into the same paragraph seems to make little sense. But the joy of this charming classic is that all the ingredients come together perfectly. The heart of the film is N!xau, who plays the bushman Xi, who displays a childlike sense of wonder and plenty of confusion when confronted with the ridiculous nature of civilization. Once he starts to get a grasp on things, he uses his deep understanding of the natural world to save the day.
The story will have adults and children laughing from start to finish. Even the gunfights have an element of slapstick that makes them seem more comic than dangerous, and ensuring that this is a film that really is good for the whole family.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about modern society. How do you think our world must look to someone, like an isolated bushman, who encounters it for the first time?
Do you think the amount of gunfire should exclude this from being considered a family film?