It’s that time of the year again, when Hell’s septic tank overflows and all the horrible contents somehow seep onto our cinema screens. In other words, it’s the Eid film season, and as usual, the bar has been lowered to subterranean levels. If I were to put as much thought into reviewing these “films” as the “filmmakers” did in making them, my review would have to read something like this: Fffrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp.
‘Tak Tak Boom’ (Tak Tak Boom)
Starring: Mohamed Saad, Lotfy Labib, Dorra
Director: Ashraf Fayek
Instead of talking like a normal person, slur your words incoherently and shout at random intervals. Cross your eyes and wave your arms out in front of you. Wiggle your hips, lift one foot, and drool. Congratulations! You have just graduated from the Mohamed Saad School of Acting.
Twelve years ago, Saad shot to fame following his admittedly amusing portrayal as bumbling drug-addled thug al-Limby in the Alaa Waley al-Deen comedy, “Al-Nazer” (The Principal). Since then, Saad has given audiences nothing but the same performance, over and over again, changing only his character’s name. The result is an increasingly pathetic body of work that seems (fingers crossed) to have hit rock bottom with this latest installment.
Tika (Saad) makes firecrackers for a living, and since this is a comedy, they routinely explode in his hands, flinging him onto the roof of his shop, or tearing his shirt to expose his nipples. Because, as everyone knows, male nipples are hilarious.
On Tika’s wedding night, the revolution happens, just like that, in the middle of the evening. How did director Ashraf Fayek choose to depict the most significant moment in our nation’s modern history? Someone screams, a horseless carriage, in flames, rolls across the screen and a small crowd runs down the street, all in the same shot. Cut to stock footage of the city skyline – hotels fully lit and no visible smoke, fires, siren lights, or gunshot flashes – and end scene.
This lack of effort is glaringly obvious in every other aspect of “Tak Tak Boom”. The cinematography is almost always at eye level, with whole scenes playing out to a single static angle, and despite the story’s modest demands, the production design is amateurish. For the musical score, it’s almost certain the composer, listed in the credits as “Mady”, set his Casio keyboard on “demo” mode and walked out of the room.
But that’s all irrelevant, as no amount of technical prowess could have saved Saad’s asinine script. The people responsible clearly intended to make “Tak Tak Boom” a revolution-themed comedy, but there’s not even the slightest attempt at realism, or logic for that matter. Tika, for example, pelts and clubs his friends with firecrackers and explosive materials, just for laughs. But, using the same exact fireworks in the same exact way against thugs makes him a one-man army – a braying, belly-dancing, neurologically-impaired one-man army.
Real-life protester chants are actually forced into the dialogue, as parts of characters’ conversations, and the revolution “jokes” are unfunny at best, and surprisingly tasteless at worst. The same goes for the scenes where thugs raid his neighborhood, and Tika uses “Home Alone” tactics to fight them off – all the more outrageous considering the credits include a “fight choreographer”.
The muddled morality usually preached in these films is also at its most ludicrous here, as the post-revolutionary setting opens up whole new dimensions of hypocrisy for the filmmakers to indulge in. Take, for example, the scene in which Tika steals the merchandise thugs looted during the uprising, and gives it to the poor people in his neighborhood, who cheer and celebrate. Tika celebrates with them, and – in the same scene – stops thrusting his hips long enough to guilt them about accepting stolen goods. The residents’ response? An elderly woman (of course) gives a brief speech about how their collective conscience could never allow them to accept contraband, and they promptly return them to Tika.
This makes no sense, in a way that’s typical of the rest of the movie: Saad, a notorious control freak with a reputation for editing his own films, wants to come across as every type of hero imaginable, making “Tak Tak Boom” a vanity project of the worst kind – offensive, unfounded, and entirely delusional. It’s basically Saad pleading with audiences to not throw him out with other actors tied to the previous regime, when really, they should be throwing him out because of the quality of his work.
‘Bibo wa Besheer’ (Bibo and Besheer)
Starring: Asser Yassin, Mena Shalaby
Director: Mariam Abou-Ouf
Here’s something new – an Egyptian sports movie. At least for the first few minutes, and then again for the last scene. In between, it’s an encyclopedia of every romantic movie cliché in existence and, for five depressing minutes, a remake of the Jennifer Aniston flop, “The Breakup”.
“Bibo wa Besheer” doesn’t know what it wants to be, it just knows it wants to be different, which is why the featured sport is basketball, and not soccer. It’s also why the film has an actual score performed by actual musicians, instead of just relying on “wacky” sound effects and its characters’ habit of breaking out into song. However many points that earns it, though, are quickly squandered by a script so lame, even the screenwriter couldn’t resist the urge to ridicule it: In one scene, Mena Shalaby’s character remarks on the film’s sequence of improbable events, stating, “This is like those really bad movies they used to make in the 1940s.” And 2011, thanks to you.
Due to the incompetence of his fat sidekick (wouldn’t be a comedy without one), Besheer ends up renting the same apartment as Abeer, or Bibo. Since Besheer spends his mornings as the national basketball team’s Tanzanian language translator (see? DIFFERENT), and Bibo plays the tabla in a folk-rock band at night, the two are conveniently never in their accidentally shared apartment at the same time. Incredibly, it takes them the length of an entire feature film to figure out they’re roommates, but luckily, they’ve already fallen in love by that point. Unfortunately, that pesky cliché list dictates one last dramatic lovers’ spat before a tidy resolution, complete with a heartwarming “let’s-stare-awkwardly-at-each-other-and-hug-because-we-can’t-kiss-onscreen” moment.
The performances are mixed. Screen veterans Ezzat Abou-Ouf and Safiya al-Emary are firmly in default mode, comfortably fulfilling the roles expected of them – those of Ezzat Abou-Ouf and Safiya al-Emary, to be exact. More enjoyable is Mohamed Khan’s cameo as Bibo’s father. The acclaimed director may not be the greatest actor, but he’s certainly fun to watch. The same can’t be said for the leads – as Besheer (Asser Yaseen) is awkward and unconvincing, barely coasting by on charm, while Shalaby’s typically loud and vulgar portrayal of Bibo doesn’t sit well with the sweet-natured tone the filmmakers seemed to be aiming for. Neither does the scene where the fat guy gets on the toilet, complete with “comedic” sound effects.
Most disappointing is the fact that, despite the filmmakers’ previously mentioned attempts at offering something different, “Bibo wa Besheer” still ends up resorting to reliable crowd-pleasers like hashish and hookers. It may only be for a couple of brief scenes, but the question remains – why? It’s like the filmmakers didn’t believe in their own work. Which is plausible, since we already know the screenwriter didn’t.
Overall, the film is… not offensive. Compared to the rest of the season’s offerings, that’s pretty admirable. However, when taken on its own, “Bibo wa Besheer” fails to stand out from other examples of its genre – the sole difference here being that the filmmakers have traded local clichés for Hollywood ones.
‘Ana Badia’ ya Wadia’’ (I’m Lost, Wadia’)
Starring: Karim Abou Zeid, Intessar, Diaa al-Merghani, Nelly Karim
Director: Sherif Abdeen
Given the film’s content, it’s surprising that the promotional poster for “Ana Badia’ ya Wadia’” isn’t an image of a giant pair of breasts. This indicates either an impressive restraint on the director’s part, or a lack of communication between the filmmakers and the marketing department. It’s probably the latter.
For those unfamiliar with his work, such as myself, Sherif Abdeen quickly establishes himself as the type of director who’s not shy about shoving his camera directly into any woman’s cleavage, and making an entire movie out of it. Just like screenwriter Mohamed Fadl isn’t shy about having his main characters say things like “a film that doesn’t make money is like a woman who can’t have children” – directly to the camera.
This might be ironic, or even funny, if “Ana Badia’” was a good movie, but it’s not even close. Suffocating under all that silicone is a hint of a storyline that gradually reveals itself to be a blatant rip-off of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”. This is made clear when one of the characters says, “Let’s make a blatant rip-off of Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers’,” before going off on a more detailed explanation.
Wadia’ is a film director working for Tohamy, a lecherous, dwarfish producer who, in the real world, would be producing films just like this one. When Tohamy finds himself facing the threat of being audited for not paying his taxes, he and Wadia’ come up with a plan to direct a massive box-office failure to put their studio in the red. “Ana Badia’” is centered on shouting, looking down girls’ blouses, jokes that make you cringe, and a truly nauseating scene involving popping the dwarf’s hemorrhoids.
Sharea’ el-Haram (El-Haram St.)
Starring: Saad al-Soghayar, Dina, Ahmed Bedeir
Apparently tired of shoehorning giant, stinking mountains of sleaze into “wholesome” family entertainment, the abortion clinic otherwise known as al-Sobky Production Company has grown lazy over the years, gradually dropping all pretenses and fully embracing their role as misogynistic smut peddlers. Their latest feature is their laziest and potentially sleaziest, although, at the rate they churn this stuff out, it’s impossible to keep track anymore.
Consider this exchange:
Hideous Woman: I was kidnapped by three men, and raped.
Hideous Woman’s Hideous Sister: All three men raped you?
Hideous Woman: No, just one of them did.
Hideous Woman’s Other Hideous Sister: What?! And you didn’t think to tell the other two men that you had two available sisters at home? What’s wrong with you?
Wacky sound effects…
That was a joke, in case you couldn’t tell (if so, congratulations on being a decent human being). Coming 12 minutes into the film, it also marked the exact moment that I slid out of my seat, and rushed home to shower and write this:
Dear Sobky Family,
Reviewing your films makes as much sense as reviewing a stool sample. In a just and fair world, tickets to your films would come with free herpes medication, and a letter of apology. Because rape is not funny. Slapping/kicking/spitting on women is not funny. And punching a woman in the mouth is not an acceptable method of seduction, for many reasons. Sex is already enough of a problem here, you don’t have to make it worse. I wish it were possible for you to feel shame, because you really should.