Crazy Monkey escapes from MTV cage

'Benoni' feature loosely follows group's beginnings

JOHANNESBURG — Benoni, a bleak, provincial mining town east of Johannesburg, famous for being thesp Charlize Theron’s hometown, is set to achieve a new level of international notoriety in a feature based on the popular Crazy Monkey inserts on MTV created by four South Africans, some of whom hail from — you guessed it — Benoni.

Titled “Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni,” the film was shot on location in the town over 28 days on a budget of just $1.3 million, and loosely follows the story of Crazy Monkey’s beginnings before it achieved global cult status through its wacky anti-hero MTV spots.

It is in post-production and will be released locally in August through Ster Kinekor.

Crazy Monkey’s success story started four years ago when commercials director and standup comedian Trevor Clarence, copywriter and writer Brendan Jack, actor and DJ Brett Goldin and copywriter Gavin Williams decided to have some fun with a video camera and make some offbeat video spots to submit to MTV.

They emulated the Jackass stunt group’s spots with “daring and dangerous” stunts of their own, such as drinking orange juice after cleaning their teeth, and hoped MTV would use a few of them at least once.

But MTV loved them, even flying the team to London to shoot Crazy Monkey for U.K. spots, and soon MTV regions in Europe, Canada, South America, Australia and Asia picked them up.

The feature was created by Clarence and Jack, and although it is based on their stunts, it has a “teen flick” story line, which helmer Clarence says is inspired by movies like “Dude, Where’s My Car.”

In the pic, friends from Benoni, Brendan and Gavin (played by themselves), lose their hot new jobs in advertising 24 hours before their 10-year high school reunion. Suddenly the pressure is on to achieve something to prove they are not losers. All they have to do is get their band signed, get cast in a movie, avoid being arrested, entertain a rowdy party, produce world-class marketing ideas, woo a starlet, get their picture in the newspaper and outsmart their arch-enemy, former head boy Chad, played by Colin Moss (“Egoli,” “Number 10”).

Clarence and Goldin also appear in the film with Tanit Phoenix (“Lord of War”) playing the female lead and appearances by several local celebrities and half of the residents of Benoni, who now call their town Benoniwood.

“Straight Outta Benoni” is produced and sponsored by Internet Solutions founder and IT start-up millionaire Ronnie Apteker, co-produced by Tendeka Matatu and executive produced by David Frankel, Joel Phiri and Jeremy Nathan of the DV8 feature production project.