One has to admire producer Ronnie Apteker’s faith in writer/director Brendan Jack. He took Jack and his Crazy Monkey team’s vision of a South African white trash suburbia to the big screen with Straight Outta Benoni in 2005, and despite its failure has come back for more.
Footskating 101 distances itself from the Crazy Monkey label, (which Jack and his cohorts established on MTV in a series of much-applauded short skits), seemingly under the impression that the real talent behind it all was actually Jack himself.
Footskating 101, is set in a small mining town, in which an outsider, Vince (Rob van Vuuren) sets out to save the local mine from exploding (don’t ask), his family home from the government, and his granny’s lungs, all by inventing a new extreme sport of footskating… which is described as “skateboarding for those who can’t really afford a board.” Jack also plays Vince’s brother Delarey in addition to helming the project.
As in Straight Outta Benoni, it all starts off relatively well, with some genuinely funny moments, getting your hopes up that there may be something to the zany concepts and characters. However, once the set up of the Footskating world is done, so are most of the funnier scenes. Creating an authentically humorous South African environment is clearly one of Jack’s true talents, but writing and directing a story is not.
Things begin to fall apart at an alarming pace when we are expected to actually care about Vince’s plight as he embarks on his journey to the climactic skateboarding finals in Johannesburg.
There’s little consistency of tone, and Jack himself is usually simply annoying rather than being funny. Throwing a host of b-list celebrities (do we have any A-list celebrities?) at the mess really doesn’t help matters.
On the plus side, Rob van Vuuren – a newcomer to the team and best known as Twakkie from The Most Amazing Show – is partially successful in bringing some likable personality to the film. He has a real comic sensibility, as does Jose Domingos as the absurdly gay coach Salvatore Mentorino.
One must commend Jack for his determination to create a unique South African comedy genre and aesthetic – there is something in his ideas, but he lacks discipline and skill in storytelling. The music is great and the digital cinematography is appropriately MTV-ish in style.
Nevertheless, none of this obscures the fact that Footskating 101 is a dumb, often infantile movie, with only a few occasional highlights. Some will defend it on the basis that it’s aimed at a teen audience, but that argument didn’t prove to hold much water with Straight Outta Benoni, and I predict it won’t either here – despite a massive marketing campaign. And let’s be honest, at 32, I wonder how in touch Jack actually is with this market.
I’d love to be able to say something good about this film – I’m all for supporting local talent – but unfortunately even three glasses of wine at the much hyped celebrity-packed premiere didn’t help convince me that this is worthy of anyone’s time or money.