'Monkey' opens with biggest B.O. for a local film this year

JOHANNESBURG — The South African critics may not have been overwhelmed, but “Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni” has achieved what few local films manage to do — pull in the auds.

The eagerly anticipated young-skewing comedy feature is a spinoff of MTV’s Crazy Monkey skits, which originated in South Africa and went on to be shown on MTV outlets around the world. Pic opened with a bang last weekend, with the biggest opening weekend B.O. for a local film this year.

“Crazy Monkey” grossed $130,000 for the three-day weekend, almost double the second-place film and other new release for the weekend, “Cinderella Man.”

It succeeded in pulling in a bigger audience than award-winning and local pics such as Oscar-nommed “Yesterday,” and Golden Bear winner “U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha,” with the second-biggest opening weekend B.O. figure since Leon Schuster’s “Oh Shucks I’m Gatvol” in March last year.

The feature was shot on location in Benoni, a bleak, provincial mining town east of Johannesburg famous for being the hometown of Charlize Theron, and involved much of the local population in the production. Not surprisingly, therefore, the biggest support for the film came from Ster-Kinekor’s East Rand Mall cinema.

Director is former Benoni resident and commercial spot director Trevor Clarence, and features the rest of the MTV Crazy Monkey gang — writer Brendan Jack, actor and DJ Brett Goldin and writer Gavin Williams — as themselves along with a host of South African celebrities and sportsmen.

Financing was provided by local tech entrepreneur-turned-producer Ronnie Apteker, and pic was co-produced by Tendeka Matatu and executive produced by David Frankel, Joel Phiri and Jeremy Nathan of the DV8 feature production project.

The comedy’s success illustrates an unfortunate reality for local film producers trying to find an audience for serious, quality features. Local productions are largely criticproof, and auds are drawn to comedies with humor they can identify with, such as South African box office king Schuster’s trademark candid camera-style comedies including “Mr. Bones” and “Panic Mechanic.”

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