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El Feel Fel Mandeel: Unoriginal Spy Comedy
The story of this latest Egyptian comedy revolves around Saeed (Zakaria), an ambitious fruit seller who wants to be much more, and dreams of being part of the country’s secret service. Saeed's prayers are answered when he is in fact recruited to be a spy, unbeknownst to him that he is just a decoy to draw attention from a real mission.
As a fake spy, he is charged with looking for a person named John Dark, while the real spy is on his mission to find and retrieve a chip that contains nuclear war secrets, and threatens national security.
El Feel Fel Mandeel is another in the long line of comedy films starring Zakaria; and we use the term ‘comedy’ very loosely. Although he is a perpetual sidekick character, Tabakh El Rayes seemingly propelled Zakaria into a leading man.
The story itself is predictable, boring, and overdone. This is not the first time, and we fear not the last time either, that the concept of mistaken identity has been used to absurd slapstick effect in an Egyptian comedy film.
It's actually difficult to judge whether the poor performances are down to the lacklustre efforts of the actors or the clichéd script. Films like these rely on one thing; humour, and nothing more. Unfortunately, El Feel Fel Mandeel features few comic scenarios to build from, and the slapstick jokes are insultingly cheesy.
Parts of it even border on being tasteless, particularly a scene when Saeed is taking a lie-detector test. He is asked whether he hates Egypt’s former president, to which he answers with a firm and resolute ‘Yes’. It’s a strange and completely irrelevant addition to the script, and we wonder if the film’s makers thought this would cause audiences to break into rapturous applause and cheers. Or it could of course have been Zakaria's own input, after receiving so much criticism for what has been perceived as 'anti-revolution' comments.
The biggest problem with this film is the fact that Zakaria can’t carry the story as the lead. He has gained his reputation through his bit-part appearances in comedy films and television soap operas, as well as his comic moustache and haircut. Add to this the poor script and inane storyline, and you have an exasperating excuse of a film.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.