The new Afrikaans musical Pretville is unlike anything you have ever seen locally. It spells fun with a capital F and delivers what it promises, and much, much more. In fact, there's so much more that the little that is left, leaves nothing to the imagination.
In the tradition of the Mamma Mia-ish Liefling, the soulful Platteland and the music dramas Jakhalsdans and Susanna van Biljon, Pretville tries its best to outshine its former predecessors, but fails to deliver anything unique.
Musicals on the big screen are a strange but exciting breed, and if you look at recent sensations like Rock Of Ages, Burlesque or Hairspray, it is genre that has no limitations. Magnifying a story 10 times, the sheer velocity and impact of song, dance and drama can be overwhelming, but it is this unique command of craftsmanship that has made Bollywood what it is and makes musicals on the big screen an unforgettable experience.
A strange mixture of Boer-kitsch and corny romance
Although the genre gives story makers the licence to thrill and go slightly overboard, it is an extremely refined art form that needs skilful constraint to make it work. Pretville shows little constraint and is a strange mixture of Boer-kitsch and corny romance, with vibrant and larger-than-life characters exploding with verve and vivacity.
It's a talented cast and their singing is adequate; it's just a pity that it never feels sincere or real and far removed from the fake reality of its setting. And, if you get the feeling that you have seen (or heard) it before, you have. Prettville is our own local Grease, complete with American-styled costumes, cars and music.
In contrast to the solid narrative of films like Platteland, in which the story rules, Pretville is all about the characters; a liquorish all-sorts of stereotypes thrown together in a town that truly belongs in the imagination. The individual characters live in their own world and often hijack the spotlight of other characters, never allowing the ensemble of Pretville to unify.
Although it's fun, brimming with amusement and coquettish flirtation from start to finish, the one-dimensional characters are not captivating or remotely intriguing. There are no surprises in Pretville. Let's see, Steve Hofmeyr as a womanising rock star? Terence Bridgett as a flamboyant hairdresser and Mayor of Pretville Pierre Lukuveer? No surprises there.
Also, if you are going to throw a funeral into the mixture (not sure why Oliver comes to mind), it would help if it blended into the story; its disjointed plotting and non-existent theme contribute to the void that is felt when leaving the cinema . There's naïve innocence in this nostalgic romp that has no emotion, it's all on the surface. If local filmmakers set out to make musical about South Africa in the 1950s, it should be that and nothing more. It would be interesting to see Pretville unmasked, without the pretence or self-conceit. Still, it's fun, but fun filled with a vigorous passion from the filmmakers and cast that offers amusing entertainment.
Behind the scenes
Pretville is the brand new Afrikaans musical film from Hartiwood Films. Reuniting the talented filmmaking team behind the 2010 blockbuster Liefling, Die Movie - producers Paul Kruger and Emma Kruger, and co-producer and director Linda Korsten - the film is a rollicking Afrikaans musical set in the 1950s.Also on board is the internationally acclaimed composer and songwriter Machiel Roets, who has composed almost 30 brand new Afrikaans songs for the film. Roets has worked as musical director on pantomimes and musicals in London for more than 12 years.
"With Pretville we hope to capture the 50s that we largely missed out on," said director Linda Korsten. "This film is colourful and full of fun, music and dance. You'll recognise the characters even if you don't know them. Once you have visited the town of Pretville, you cannot help but feel happy."