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‘The Gods Must Be Crazy II’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 13, 1990

At first, a movie that features Africans running around Keystone-Kops style, while a narrator talks about "the slender and graceful little Bushmen of the Kalahari," combined with a white South African director sitting behind the camera, telling them what to do by means of an interpreter, gesticulations and body gyrations, well . . . it makes you wonder.

Or does it? Maybe it doesn't. Chances are, you saw "The Gods Must Be Crazy" and laughed, no matter what color you are (you probably chuckled especially at the speeded-up motion), and maybe you didn't think about racial or cultural exploitation, or "Amos 'n' Andy" characterizations, or the kind of serious, social-responsibility stuff that fills movie reviews, talk shows, classrooms and church meeting halls.

So, chances are, you'll find the sequel -- adventurously titled "The Gods Must Be Crazy II," and featuring pretty much the same stuff (that ironic, nature-documentary-type narrator, white soldiers and black soldiers, a mixed cluster of movie-trained and real-life wildlife, and of course Kalahari Bushmen) -- just as funny as before.

Besides, you just might reason to yourself, it's the white people in "Gods II" who turn out to be the real comic dunderheads anyway, and it's Xixo, the central Bushman (who incidentally does a lot of running around) who turns out to be the relative voice of reason -- although you'd have to speak Khoisan to understand him. Reverse condescension on the part of director Jamie Uys? This is "The Gods Must Be Crazy II," for God's sake.

Xixo, by the way, is played by the same Bushman from the original. His real, Khoisan name is N Xau and he really lives in the Kalahari, and really does survive off roots and berries, and really does detect animal spoors, and really can squeeze life-giving water out of underground tubers in this arid wilderness, and really can act if you just demonstrate for him.

In the chase-movie storyline, such as it is, Xixo tries to find his two children (played by real Bushmen-children Nadies and Eiros, who speak a different dialect from N Xau), who are stuck in the water tank of a speeding truck manned by two dastardly ivory poachers (Lourens Swanepoel and Pierre van Pletzen).

Meawhile, elsewhere in the Banana Republic, unspecified desert, various stranded foreigners are trying to find their way home, including an American lawyer (Lena Farugia) and bush ranger/zoologist (Hans Strydom), whose plane went down; a Cuban soldier (Erick Bowen); and a UNITA guerilla (Treasure Tshabalala).

As you can imagine, people will bump into trees, jeeps will crash and send people spilling out, the lawyer will repeatedly lose all dignity (you'll lose count of the number of times her dress happens to be pulled over her head), the children will keep tumbling back into that water tank. Meanwhile the wacky African wildlife also participates, commenting from the sidelines. An ostrich chases the ranger from her eggs, an ape yawns at the semi-clad attorney, the hyena laughs at just about anything and a honey badger -- the Kalahari's answer to the pitbull -- clamps on to the ranger's boot and doesn't let go. But everyone will get their bearings, the badger will let go, and you'll probably have some laughs along the way in spite of your better instincts.

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