Movie review – Jock loses its African spirit

2011-07-29 09:21

Film: Jock of the Bushveld (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Duncan MacNeillie
Featuring: Bryan Adams, Helen Hunt, Donald Sutherland, Ted ­Danson, Sylvaine Strike and ­Desmond Tutu
Rating: 5/10

All South Africans, and a good many non-South ­Africans worldwide, love Sir Percy Fitzpatrick’s classic Jock of the Bushveld, a tale of courage, friendship, adventure and triumph.

I haven’t read it for a good ­couple of decades, but I do ­remember the demise of the ­fearless Jock at the end, which is why I was surprised to find him still panting as the credits rolled after the screening of this 3-D ­animated version.

Endlessly billed as South Africa’s first home-grown 3-D film, which may be enough to bring in a first wave of the curious, but word of mouth will soon stem the tide. ­

Unfortunately, if you are making animated feature films anywhere in the world, the benchmark is Disney and Pixar.

If you deliver anything less, your audience will be disappointed, home-grown or not.

While the live action version in the 1980s starring the late Jonathan Rands is one I remember well and enjoyed, this animated version isn’t in the same league.

Weirdly enough though, it is made by the same director – only this time, obviously his focus is on selling it to knee-high cinema-goers worldwide.

So the story of a man and his dog becomes the story of a dog ­interacting with an increasingly weird array of creatures – from the bad-tempered baboon to the racing warthogs and a French ­poodle injected into the narrative to create a love interest.

This search for international audiences accounts for the peculiar mix of nationalities voicing the characters and the blandness of the setting.

Most bizarre of all is Canadian pop star Bryan Adams voicing Jock, stripping the Staffordshire terrier of all his Africanness.

Then there’s Helen Hunt voicing his ill-fated mother, Jess, and Ted Danson as Pezulu, the rooster who takes the young Jock under his wing.

The South African voices are kept to a minimum, with the most noteworthy being Desmond Tutu as the wise Baba, and Theo Landey gets to voice the young Fitz, who is possibly the ugliest ­animated character I’ve ever seen.


I was predisposed to enjoy this film because it is a well-loved classic made with local talent, and I tried valiantly to do so.

In the end though, I was vanquished by its ­attempt to universalise a distinctly African story, which included a cringe-worthy moment when Basil the performing monkey breaks ­into a rap song!

In fact, the whole soundtrack paled when compared to Johnny Clegg’s Spirit of the Great Heart, which was written for the live-action Rands’ version.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.