Helm Aziz: CGI-Heavy Comedy
We have a reason to celebrate; green screens and CGI technology have
finally hit Egypt. It’s over a decade too late but better late than never
right? Right?! Well maybe not when they look like this crummy Egyptian ‘blockbuster’
Helm Aziz (Aziz’s Dream).
Ezz plays the titular Aziz, a corrupt, sleazy businessman who only cares
about money and women. One night, while asleep, he sees a vision of his late
dad (Mounir) in heaven wearing glowing white robes. He extends his hand to Aziz
inviting him up a staircase and through a doorway but Aziz, after taking a
couple of steps, refuses. The same scenario repeats itself the next night as
well. With the help of a sheikh, Aziz interprets his visions of his father as a
warning of his impending death. Convinced that he only has until the end of the
month, Aziz goes about setting things right with all the people he’s wronged
before he gets chucked into hell.
This film doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Half of its appeal comes
from watching the cast hamming it up and generally being as over the top as
possible; case in point, Mounir in a shiny, gold bullfighting onesie. The main
cast which, in addition to Ezz and Mounir, includes Kassab as Magda, Aziz’s personal
secretary, and Emam as Tamer, his right hand man and brother in law, do an ok
job as long as you’re down with the campiness.
However, the cameos, the
funniest of which portray some awesome historical figures, are the film’s
secret weapon. Menna Shalaby, who plays Aziz’s late mother in a brief cameo
towards the very end, walks away with the entire film and she alone manages to
really nail the balance between pleasantly over the top and flat out
ridiculous. Now the melodramatic style doesn’t always work, the meaningful parts
are very heavy-handed and intensified by an equally unsubtle score and the film
quite often comes across as a bit of a sitcom but had the audience in stitches
for the majority of its runtime.
The dream sequences in particular seemed to delight them but we weren’t
sure whether it was because they actually thought the stuff on screen was funny
or due to the novelty of Egyptian actors being surrounded by (sloppy) CGI. Both
heaven and hell are almost completely digitally created and have a slight videogame
feel; especially the latter which is all thin wood planks over a bed of
bubbling lava with fireballs crashing about everywhere.
Another thing that adds
to the cheapness of the visual effects is that they occasionally reference other
films. Heaven, with its floating islands over sparkling, blue water, looks like
an Avatar rip off; while another dream
scene in which Aziz and his dad have a sword fight, takes place in a room that
looks like something out of Kill Bill.
While these references are probably intentional, you can’t help but think of
how bad they look in comparison to the originals.
It’s patchy and the tonal shifts between the funny parts and the
serious, preachy parts are jarring at best, but the film
does have its fair share of laugh out loud moments, some of them genuinely