Semi-Soet

What it's about:

Jaci (Anel Alexander) is a workaholic ready to do anything for her company. Desperate to save the small advertising agency from being bought and dismantled by a ruthless businessman known as The Jackal (Nico Panagio), Jaci hires a male model to pretend to be her fiancé in order to win a contract. However, she ends up mistaking The Jackal for her model and an elaborate series of mishaps ensues.

What we thought:

Now where have we seen this story before? Ruthless businessman who dismantles companies – Edward Lewis in Pretty Woman. Businesswoman who pretends to have a fiancé to ensure a promotion at work? Jennifer Aniston in Picture Perfect.

When I asked the writer and star Sandra Vaughn (Sandra plays Jaci’s sidekick and colleague Karla) about these glaring similarities, she simply put it down to them being typical rom-com vehicles, and they (the producers) were trying to make SA’s first Afrikaans rom-com.

However, there’s a big difference between sticking to the formula and compiling your storyboard like it’s a mosaic made out of a 90s TV guide.

I really do value the effort put into making a South African movie that’s not a sad trip down apartheid memory lane or a slapstick farce-fest. This movie could have been saved by a good, honest edit and more faith in South African stories and audiences. Vaughn has written some hilarious one-liners that South African audiences will really appreciate. But when you have to pick the gems out of a pile of clichés, it becomes too much hard work.

Nico Panagio was born to play a rom-com lead; those dark looks and that camera-ready smile are all he and his character need in this movie. Anel Alexander is also a lovely leading lady, but both lay on the campy exuberance too thick and sometimes it feels like you’re watching a toothpaste advert.

The storyline is also extremely convoluted; from an office environment to a wine farm and a studio shoot in between, I’m once again left weighing up the effort required against the pay-off.

Other disasters include a distracting tango interlude each time The Jackal’s sidekick Hertjie thinks of a girl and absolutely awful sound editing – bells ringing before the rope had been pulled and car doors closing with no sound. Ai toggie.

Diaan Lawrenson is an absolute treat as Jaci’s ex-fiance’s new girlfriend, Chadrie. The intellectually challenged gym bunny gets almost all the good lines. She’s a lot like Lawrenson’s day-job character, 7de Laan’s Paula, but better.

This mini 7de Laan reunion (Nico, Anel, Sandra and Diaan all starred in the soap at one stage) is broken up by comedian Louw Venter who plays The Jackal’s lawyer and sidekick. He’s totally underwhelming in the role and his comedic chops are stifled somewhat by lame lines.

While there’s much to criticise about this blatant, crass attempt at a rom-com, what makes me really sad is that it had potential. Why not create a new genre of Afrikaans rom-coms instead of trying to rip off Hollywood? I have to confess that I found the movie full of laughs; I’m just not sure they were for the right reasons. 
 
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