In 2015, our most prolific local film maker hung up his camera. With this an era in comedy came to a close and Leon Schuster left like a myth, an absolute legend. Phumlani S Langa headed to the cinema to witness his return to film and discovers why you should never leave the game while you're hot.
Frank and Fearless
Director: Gray Hofmeyr
Starring: Leon Schuster, Themba Ntuli, Kenneth Nkosi and Khanyi Mbau
. - - - -
This old timer was supposed to stay in retirement, but perhaps the sweet sound of laughter and the beguiling call of a profitable film was too much for Leon Schuster to resist.
The man who some might say is a god of local cinema has returned as a mere mortal, armed with the poorest slapstick I have come across in my life.
This time Leon is trying to save the rhinos. Shame, I’ll give him props for always trying to say something while making us laugh.
He’s roped in the talents of Themba Ntuli, Kenneth Nkosi and Khanyi Mbau.
I do feel a little sorry for Ntuli, as he seems to be typecast as a small boy, which makes sense given his diminutive stature, but it would be nice to see him play something else.
Ntuli plays a lad called Fearless, who stays near a game reserve and befriends a baby rhino after its mother gets killed by poachers.
This enrages the boy and he plans to head to the consulate of the fictional Nambodia to protest, as Nambodia is responsible for the most poached rhino horn purchases.
If you’re going to tackle the scourge of poaching, why not name and shame the actual nations responsible? What the hell is Nambodia?
Running concurrently with this story is Leon’s character – an eccentric chef called Sonny Frank, who is fired from his plush job aboard a fancy steam liner.
When an opportunity arises for him in Pretoria he starts looking for means to get there.
His path crosses with Fearless, who is in possession of a Krugerrand, which they use to fund their trip. Frank is a sketchy guy, he wants to abandon the boy after using him to hitch a ride.
This leaves Fearless on the streets of Pretoria for a night, where he runs into a scrap slayer who points him in the direction of a rhino spirit.
It turns out to just be a statue of a rhino, which winks at him. I think what happened is that Fearless and the scrap slayer shared a nyaope blunt.
The movie is dogged by dodgy CGI and a poorly crafted script. The Nambodian consulate in Pretoria is a building in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Come on Leon, we live here; I drive by that place every morning and now I must believe that it’s in Pretoria? Also, Fearless always has a dog with him, named Dog. Mad creativity over here.
Usually I laugh out loud in a Schuster film, but this was bland slapstick. It’s the same formula that director Gray Hofmeyr and Schuster have used for decades.
It’s like he’s been struggling to deliver ever since society turned its nose up to his obsessive use of blackface.
Thank goodness for Nkosi (Dolf) and Mbau (Beauty), who execute their roles as best they can, but this is far from being their best roles to date.