With Ramadan over, audiences are ungluing their eyes from the small screen and seeking entertainment elsewhere. Al-Masry Al-Youm takes a reluctant glimpse into the bulging diaper otherwise known as the Eid Film season.
Sameer wa Shaheer wa Baheer
Sameer, Shaheer, and Baheer
Starring: Ahmed Fahmy, Chico, Hisham Maged
Directed by: Moataz el-Touny
Ever watched Back to the Future and thought to yourself ‘this would be a great movie if it were set in Egypt circa 1970, and was really dumbed down’? Me neither. But apparently, the makers of this movie have, because that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Like most of this year’s Eid films, Sameer, Shaheer wa Baheer’s opening scenes rely heavily on the most reliable of expository techniques—the voiceover, provided in this case by veteran actor Mahmoud el-Gindy, recalling (in rhyme) the events of one particular night in “the 70’s” when he—being at the time a young, dashing and, as the audience is repeatedly told, irresistibly handsome pilot—ran into, and subsequently impregnated, three beautiful women, who, exactly nine months later, all gave birth to a son each. Setup complete, the voiceover promptly disappears, never to be heard from again.
Fast forward thirty years, and the titular sons are all students in the same university (still?), and they hate each other, although the exact reasons why are never really made clear. Naturally, they find themselves being forced to work together in order to graduate. Unable to come up with an idea for their final project, they decide to steal their professor’s personal project, which turns out to be a time machine. Stay with me. The time machine takes them back to the night they were conceived, which is an amazing coincidence really, seeing as the machine was never set to a specific date.
If you’ve seen Back to the Future, you know how the rest of this story goes, and if not, you probably still have a pretty good idea. Of course, the events, and consequently, jokes, are all Egyptian-ized, and certain plotlines expanded on, namely the mother ‘having the hots’ for her son, which was quirky in the original, and more than a little creepy here. Especially when the son flirts back.
That said, the film does have its charm and a few rare moments of ingenuity that include pitching modern-day sha’aby songs to a confused Abdel Halim Hafez, and a hilariously accurate recreation of university campuses as depicted by Egyptian teen films of the 70’s.
But while most of the jokes are funny on some level, the majority of them fall flat due to lousy editing and an uneven pace. And despite its overall frothiness, the film can’t escape a few cringeworthy moments of misogyny (“Girls are like postage stamps—you spit on them and they stick (get attached),” one of the protagonists, a supposed womanizer, muses at one point). This being a mainstream Egyptian comedy also means that the characters can’t have premarital sex (unless they’re villains), making the whole third act, in which the three leads must convince their unassuming father to impregnate their respective mothers, far more complicated than it needs to be. As a result, Sameer, Shaheer, wa Baheer, feels a lot longer than it actually is, greatly reducing any excitement at the prospect of the sequel setup by the film’s closing scene.
Starring: Lebleba, Ahmed Foaud Selim, Amr Abid, Hassan Harb
Directed by: Akram Farid
A’aelat Mickey is the rarest of beasts—an Eid movie that doesn’t feature any songs, trips to Sharm, or even a single belly dancer in its cast. No overweight, mentally-challenged sidekick, no fistfights or car-chases, and no jokes about drugs or male impotence. And for that reason alone, it wins enough points to elevate it head and shoulders above the rest of this season’s offerings.
Middle-aged mother of five and government attorney Mariam (Lebleba) is proud of her seemingly perfect family. So much, in fact, that she’s entered them in a prestigious, annual ‘Model Family’ competition. But, as the events of a (really long) day continue to unfold around her, she comes to realize that her pride has been based on years of lies and deceit.
Despite its straightforward concept, A’aelat Mickey is by far the most original Egyptian film released this season, one that has an actual storyline, which the filmmakers take their time building, instead of just shoving silicone in the audience’s face and turning up the volume. The characters are all relatable and played capably by a cast of mostly newcomers. There’s the eldest son, following in his father’s footsteps, but struggling with the brutality required to be a successful police lieutenant. There’s the middle child, who’s been skipping out on college classes to play videogames for the past two years. And there’s the sister, who deals with her self-esteem issues by desperately searching for her Prince Charming—on Facebook. Meanwhile, fifteen year-old Mazen finds himself on the path to a life of violence, while youngest child Mokhtar—or Mickey, as he insists on being called—spends his time digging for ancient artifacts to sell on the black market, and pelting people with eggs.
Of course, several of the plot points mentioned above are delivered in a regretfully naïve manner—the daughter sets up a date on Facebook with a guy called Mando Bob by asking him ‘do you like plump girls,’ to which he replies, ‘do you like sex?’—and the background music is corny to the point that if you close your eyes, you’d swear you were watching Baby’s Day Out. But the film does have some moments of surprising depth, particularly in the scenes revolving around Lebleba, who does an excellent job portraying a mother as equally concerned with what the neighbors think of her family as she is with the family itself. But it’s a well-balanced performance, and every moment of alienating superficiality is matched with the growing heartbreak her character feels with each painful discovery.
WhileA’aelat Mickey has a lot going for it—an engaging story, likeable characters, realistic yet humorous situations—perhaps the most rewarding thing about it is its final act, with the filmmakers thankfully avoiding the easy solutions and group hugs previously obligatory in Egyptian comedy-dramas.
Considering the rest of this season’s releases, A’aelat Mickey is definitely recommended.
Al-Ragol al-Ghamed Besalamto
The Man of Mystery, God Bless Him
Starring: Hany Ramzi, Nelly Karim, Hassan Hosni
Directed by: Mohsen Ahmed
The poster for Al-Ragol Al-Ghamed Besalamto features protagonist Hany Ramzi and love interest Nelly Karim dressed in ancient Greek attire. Just to be clear, this does not occur at any point in the film. Nor does it even come close to happening. The film’s events are set entirely in modern-day Egypt. None of the characters are singled out as being Greek, or even of Greek heritage. Why, then, does the film’s promotional poster look like an invite to the world’s lamest toga party? Just because. And if that’s good enough for you, you’re welcome to Al-Ragol Al-Ghamed. For the rest of us, the film makes absolutely no sense—a fact which everyone involved seem well aware of from the get-go.
The opening credits consist of a montage of breasts, butts, and crotches as Hany Ramzi’s character, Radi, ogles at, and in a few cases, gropes female tourists arriving at Cairo airport. A few minutes later, the filmmakers attempt to convince us Radi is in fact, a decent, honorable man, working day and night to ensure the rights of oppressed workers everywhere. In the following scene, his sister finds his porn stash. But his sister is in a wheelchair due to malpractice, and Radi has dedicated his life to making sure she gets out of her wheelchair and that such negligence never occurs again. But then, his co-worker finds his porn stash.
At some point this reviewer either fell asleep, or his brain temporarily shut down in an act of self-defense.
Al-Ragol Al-Ghamedisn’t funny, or romantic. It’s not engaging on any human level. It starts, flatlines for two long hours, and then disappears. It’s the type of movie where the Prime Minister’s name is Prime Minister, where you find yourself suddenly sitting up and wondering, ‘wait, where am I, and when can I go home?’
Belal Fadl’s ‘script’ indicates the writer’s severe lack of faith in the way the world works, as events are linked together through a series of ridiculously far-fetched coincidences. The filmmakers set up jokes that they never deliver, introduce characters and subplots that they later abandon (what happened to the wheelchair-bound sister?), and, from the looks of it, rewrote the whole thing two-thirds of the way into shooting. And they still forgot to add any sense of drama or even the slightest hint of substance.
As hinted at by the film’s title, the leads attempt to recreate the charm of Souad Hosni and the wit of Salah Jaheen. The result is a monumental failure on both counts. As a leading man, Hany Ramzi continues to exhibit a shocking lack of ability in any given mode—comedy, romance, drama; in its hands, its all the same bland mess. Meanwhile, the only emotion conveyed by Nelly Karim seems to be regret, which is understandable—perhaps the only understandable thing about the film. From the poster to the illogical sequence of improbable events, Al-Ragol A-Ghamedis a big, boring question mark; one that’s not worth finding out the answer to.
Children of the Country
Starring: Saad el-Soghayar, Dina, Mohamed Lotfy, Ahmed Rateb
Directed by: Ismail Farouk
To those of you still wondering about the reason behind the severe hashish shortage a few months ago, here’s a new theory: it was all smoked by the Neanderthals responsible for this unforgivable mess. Welad el-Balad is not a ‘film’ by any stretch of the imagination, just a rambling, incoherent collection of offensive scenes that seem to be edited together at random. Sure, there are credits in the beginning and end (providing you have the strength to stick around till then), but superimpose them over any other scene and they’d work just as well.
There are what appear to be attempts at a story but they come at intervals, with the first plot development appearing 23 minutes into the movie, followed by another one 20 minutes later. Everyone involved does a good job of ignoring this for the next 40 minutes, before sobering up for the last reel, which features some hilariously misguided attempts at patriotism (“Egypt is Egypt and will always be Egypt,” a main character yells passionately before leaping out of a moving car—whose car it is and how the character has winded up in it are never made clear).
What do the characters do for the remainder of the running time? The men yell at each other, get high, and slap women (except for the bald guy, who only slaps his woman after he finds a cure for his impotence). The women make bad jokes and get slapped (except for Dina, who shakes her breasts and bends over repeatedly. But also gets slapped at some point). When they get tired of that (and it takes them quite some time), they dance, badly. Welad el-Balad has nine songs. Or maybe the same song nine times. I don’t know.
This being a Sobky production, it is a given that any semblance of good taste and basic human decency are nowhere to be found. However, Welad el-Balad is so vulgar, so skin-crawlingly, bone-shudderingly disgusting, you’ll want to soak yourself in a tub of disinfectant afterwards, and burn whatever you were wearing at the theatre.
Out of the depressing cast, Dina is the only one worth mentioning as her frequent belly-dancing segments seem to provide the sole motivation for the cameraman to try out different angles. The rest of the, ahem, ‘actors’—convincingly portraying a group of pimps, thugs, and perverts—stumble around, shaking their hips, trying to out-crass each other. There are no clear winners.
So, if you like sleaze and pretty much nothing else, then this is the right film for you. And you’re on the wrong website.