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Having enjoyed the book and grown up around that time I was anxious to
see how the movie turned out. Many nostalgic memories were aroused
during the movie. I thought it was well made and true to the book - a
good mix of humour and the serious business of growing up. The acting
was good (Cleese was brilliant - exactly how I pictured the guv) and
the scenery was great - I love the Natal Midlands.
The crazy eight could have been better developed. I wanted to see more of Mad Dog and Vern.
Sadly I don't think it is going to appeal to a wider audience outside South Africa. I imagine that most guys from the US just wont get it or appreciate it as they will not be familiar with the historical context of the time. I hope I am wrong because it is a good movie.
I read the book Spud, a good 4 years ago and therefore have a very
vague memory of what actually happened. But I can never forget the
laughter it gave me and an awe of the crazy world Spud finds himself
I came into this movie, with a very positive attitude but with a clear perception in my mind that you should not compare the book to the movie, how can a one and a half hour movie encompass all what the book has to show and the story it tells. It is an impossibility, I accepted that and tried to watch the movie with a clear mind and a unbias approach (being a south African) to the film. This film is being released overseas next year. Therefore I am judging this movie not as a South Afican film, but an international one. Is it truly a good film, does it work? Well, yes it is and it does. In this review I will not mention the book again. This is a review based purely on a film...called Spud.
This Movie is shown, through the eyes and ears of John Milton- aka Spud. With the audience hearing his voice/ his thoughts. Spud tells us his story, we are guided through the movie with his voice explaining to us the ins and outs of his world. This by itself is unique, it immediately attaches us closely to spud and by the end of the first scene you are already feeling emotionally attached to the character. This technique is used extensively throughout the film, but only as a tool to help the audience become familiar with the circumstances surrounding spud. Crucially this is not overused which allows the movie to flow.
The characters in the film are strong and generally well cast. With two notable performances. Firstly the guv being played by none other than John Cleese. He is as you would expect, brilliant and funny. But it is the unexpected and sincere emotional portrayal he gives to the guv that makes it so special, so human. Troye Sivan who plays spud, is ultimately, well how do I put this... spectacular. It is his performance which makes this movie so good. His Facial expressions and the emotions he feels flows from the screen into our brain, into our hearts instantaneously. It is truly something special, something out of the ordinary. A Spud we can all be proud of.
This movie is of course funny, with many laughs traveling around the cinema. But its a movie with so much more than that, so much more than a cheap laugh. With all this being said, this movie as it stands so far in this review deserves a 10/10 but then why did I give it an 8? I must say not everything works in the movie, Character development of many important characters was very little and unmeaningful. Spuds interaction on a personal level with the crazy 8 was less then I would of liked and due to the book and thus the movie, the climax was, disappointing.The singing was prerecorded, which may make it sound better but also unnatural, not something I would of preferred.
Even with that being said, as a whole this film works and it works well. It deserves to be seen, to be enjoyed.Its Something Different, something special. May the Madness continue :D and may the tickets sell.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a rare movie that manages to be both cute and naive, mature and
interesting; Spud achieves the paradox to perfection. Anchored by the
superb Troye Sivian, this is an easygoing, often funny coming of age
story set in a South African boarding school. Whilst the issues of the
country are referenced, they are not essential to the plot or even the
characterization - people from any nationality will be able to enjoy
There is a great dynamic amongst the cast of a whole. The boys in the Crazy 8 appear natural, with a great chemistry and sense of fun, which stop the film getting weighed down by the emotional issues encompassing growing up, fitting in and bullying that crop up. Sivian steals the show as the title character, with an astonishingly touching and believable performance that belies his years. He's also beautifully shot, the director capturing the wide eyed wonder of his endlessly expressive face, shy and insecure but growing in confidence. Cleese is the best of the adults, being both understated and moving as Spud's alcoholic mentor. His scenes with Sivian are especially notable, and are really the heart and soul of the whole film.
Thematically this is essentially a piece about both choice and fate - the importance of making the right decision, whilst never losing sight of the fact we can only play the cards that life has dealt us. If this sounds on paper a little heavy for a school drama, it doesn't feel it in practice. There is no philosophy shoved down the viewers throat, and although the film has points to make and issues to explore, it does it in a subtle enough way that it will not hinder the enjoyment of kids and young adults who might want some light entertainment of lesser substance.
The only gripe was the somewhat tragic ending - the death of a character close to the hero is a perennial plot device of scriptwriters and filmmakers, but it is still a very lazy way of drawing pathos and emotion from the viewer. In this case it was well built to but still felt unnecessary. While I'm not suggesting every film should end on unrealistically joyful terms, there are other ways to create sympathy than blunt death, and it didn't seem necessary in this case in relation to the plot, character or tone of the film.
Overall, though, this is a wonderful piece, both funny and moving and engrossing. More people should see it.
I went in with very low expectations as I usually do for most south
African films but with a revitalisation of the local film industry I
thought let me do the right thing and give it a chance.
Well I'm glad I did, for two reasons, one the film was very well acted and all credit goes to "Spud" as well as the inimitable Mr Cleese, an unsung icon of the silver screen if every there was one, and two it's great to see something other than Schuster Slapstick or Afrikaans kitsch making money at the local is lekker box office.
So why the 6 out of 10. A few things spring to mind. The direction, with all due respect to Donavon Marsh, felt very pedestrian, nothing jumped out of the screen as feeling fresh or original. I realise the film was set in 1990 but did it have to feel like it was made in 1990.
The pace was off - it felt all over the place - sometimes it dragged and sometimes it was a great time at the movies. The editing of the film seemed very rushed, obvious and almost unfinished (which is unusual considering Megan Gill is probably our biggest editing export) (maybe that's just professional jealously talking ;) and lastly which for me was the greatest problem of all was the appalling musical score which really diluted so many of the films key dramatic moments.
Why Ed Jordan was used to create anything other than a cheesy early nineties advertising jingle is beyond me.
But look this may sound terribly negative but the film showed huge promise and with more time, tighter scissors and a vastly different score we could have had south Africa's answer to, dare I day it "Dead Poets Society Lite" But well done - very valiant effort with it heart in all the right places... :)
"Spud" is a pleasant coming of age comedy with stellar performances by
Sivan and Royal. John Cleese delivers what is possibly his career best
performance in a dramatic role. Other performances are generally solid,
particularly Cope and Kriek.
The plot is familiar and often predictable; however, the execution is so organic that one seldom feels aware that one seldom feels conscious of viewing a film, even during the frequent voice-overs.
There are a number of unique elements to the story that seem largely squandered. The story is set in South Africa, but could just as easily have been set in Britain, Canada, Australia or a number of other locations. It occurs during a turbulent period in the country's history, but the school is isolated from political events. Spud attends a posh private school on a full scholarship, but while he is bullied, he's never bullied over his modest background. He reads "A Tale of Two Cities" and performs in "Oliver Twist," but there is no effort to draw any parallels with the country's political events or Spud's circumstances. While the film seems predictable in many respects, one expects various elements to be more fully developed and to have a greater impact on the story.
Various subplots converge at the climax in manners that are not unexpected, but don't seem entirely earned. Spud is given an option that doesn't seem earned and The Guv's situation changes abruptly in a manner that doesn't seem the logical and necessary progression of prior events. The climax might have been more fulfilling if the characters had done more to earn the outcomes.
Production values are adequate. The pace is a little slow at times. There is one scene with Spud reading in the foreground while minor events occur in the background that serves to remind the viewer that the filmmakers don't do much with the background in most shots.
Overall, it's a pleasantly entertaining film that could have done much more with some of the unique elements in the story.
"Spud" is set in South Africa at the cusp of Apartheid's collapse.
However, such worldly concerns pale in comparison to the traumas and
triumphs of the main character as he endures his first year of boarding
Perhaps it's a British colonial thing, but the obligatory gang torments and slow uphill slog toward acceptance are probably all too familiar to Brits, Canadians and Aussies alike. And so are the quandaries the main character, has to face: should he try to avoid the school "loser" in a bid to win the approval of his peers, or do what he knows deep down is right? That main character, brought brilliantly to life by boy wonder Troye Sivan, manages to pull the viewer in with a powerful, unaffected, guileless charm. He's Everyman in miniature, and his pangs and joys resonate deeply. Sivan's immense talent shows a surprising depth and sensitivity for one so young - he completely convinces as John Milton, dubbed "Spud" by his rougher classmates.
Bouyed by the peerless master of comedy John Cleese, Spud soon rises to the level of a classic cinematic masterpiece. The rapport between the crotchety old lit teacher known as "The Guv" and his promising young protégé is bang on, eliciting the gamut of reactions from pathos to hilarity. Cleese is at his best when rudely pontificating, and he doesn't disappoint here.
As Spud's doomed pal Gekko, Jamie Royal also provides a superb performance, and Genna Blair is perfect in her role as the nascent sunbeam of Milton's first love. You'll also find yourself and every single one of your old schoolmates in the main characters and supporting cast.
The lush settings are beautifully captured by cinematographer Lance Gewer, Ed Jordan's score is just the right degrees of uplifting and poignant, and Sivan's voice is aptly pure, expressive, and gently powerful.
The movie's based on the best-selling novel "Spud", which I've not yet had the pleasure of reading. Its tone is very much akin to John Irving's best, though, for my money, this is easily successor to Stephen King's classic "Stand By Me". Yes, it's that good.
Watch it. You love it, and you won't forget it. 10 out of 10, with room to spare.
I enjoyed 'Spud' today. I wasn't expecting much, which always helps. It
was filmed in my old school, Michaelhouse, and it shows it very well
for the beautiful place that it is - in a lovely setting.
Mostly the action is quite accurate too, for live in that particular boarding school, as I remember it. It hasn't changed all that much, either, over the past 35 odd years. The old Chemistry Lecture theatre is now the English classroom in the film, which seems slightly odd. The theatre was being built when I was there - a boy called Cook, fell through the skylight onto the floor below, leaving his teethmarks in the floor. He fell in front of the painting of the three witches in Macbeth - which I didn't see in the film, sensible.
The acting is good, and the South African accents authentic without being too grating. John Cleese acts very well - an not his usual comic style at all.
I'm not sure how you'll find the film if you didn't go to school there - probably better because you'll not be thinking of what all the different places meant to you, over the years!
SPUD with Troye Sivan, John Cleese, Jamie Royal, Jason Cope, Aaron
McIlroy, Genna Blair, Tanit Phoenix and Jeremy Crutchley, directed by
Donavan Marsh. Rating: 8 out of 10.
THE eagerly anticipated screen version of John van De Ruit's beloved bestseller is a delightful, funny and ultimately touching film that provides marvelous entertainment and delivers just about everything the book's many fans could have hoped for.
The casting of John Cleese was a major coup for the movie's producers and the Monty Python man - who was unforgettably amusing in "Fawlty Towers", does not disappoint. Cleese is terrific as Mr Edley (aka "The Guv"), the eccentric and alcoholic old teacher who mentors our titular young hero and introduces him to books like "Lord of the Rings" and "Catch 22". Cleese is both hilarious and moving in the role. Also excellent is Troye Sivan - who sings beautifully, as the vulnerable, lovable Spud. Jamie Royal also serves up something special with his performance as Spud's doomed true friend, "Gekko". And there are lively supporting turns from the likes of Aaron McIlroy (Dad), Jason Cope ("Sparerib" Wilson), Sven Ruygrok (Rambo) and Genna Blair, who is perfectly cast as the lovely "Mermaid".
The story begins in 1990, shortly before the release of Nelson Mandela. The winds of change are already blowing through South Africa when John Milton (Sivan) - a working class boy with a scholarship - is deposited at the posh Michaelhouse boarding school in his crazed parents' bombed- out car. As he lies in bed that night he thinks out aloud: "Tomorrow school proper begins. Maybe I'll die in my sleep and miss it completely." No such luck, and the worst is still to come. John is a late developer, so when he hits the showers, the other boys, noticing his little willie and lack of pubic hair, nickname him Spud. The name sticks.
But the witty, intelligent young Spud is determined to fit in with his dorm mates, like the "Rain Man" Vern, the sickly Gecko, Mad Dog, Rambo, porn-obsessed Boggo and the ever hungry Fatty - who holds the school farting record. Spud also wants to be an actor, hopes to shine at cricket and takes an interest in politics. Things do start to improve when "The Guv" takes Spud under his wing, though. And when - during the school holidays, he meets and falls in love with the girl he dubs "Mermaid".
"Spud", which features a fine score by Ed Jordan and splendid cinematography by Lance Gewer, is not a sentimental film. It is funny and exuberant and nostalgic, but it is also surprisingly moving and the relationship between Spud and The Guv has plenty of emotional resonance, as do other aspects of the film.
Most faithful to the spirit of Van De Ruit's book, "Spud" is a deliciously human and heartfelt film which tells a wonderful South African story with skill and sensitivity. While this story and its settings are uniquely South African, the themes are universal and there is every chance this charming film will also find a level of success in other parts of the world - such as Britain and Australia. But whether or not it works in the rest of the world is immaterial. "Spud" will be a well deserved smash hit at the local box-office and leave audiences satisfied, happy and ready for the sequel. Do not miss it. GA.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The crazy eight is a bully group at the beginning of the movie. They picked on Gecko and later Spud. Gecko even calls the school hell. When Spud visits Gecko in hospital Gecko tells him that he shouldn't listen to Rambo and try to impress him.
After awhile we see Spud preparing for the Oliver Twist. I was actually proud of him when he put on the wig because that was the sign that he doesn't care what the crazy eight thinks. (they were picking on him that he looks like a sheep with the wig). When he is invited to come out on the stage he TAKES OFF HIS WIG!
For all three movies I have been hoping that he will confront the crazy eight. I couldn't enjoy their adventures having on my mind what they had done to Gecko.
I don't know whether I can give an impartial review of this movie, but
I'd like to try. You see, I was at the same school, but about 15 years
before John van der Ruit. And I couldn't finish the book. It brought
back too many unhappy memories. But I managed to stay the course for
the movie ! Spud chronicles the first year for John (Spud) Milton at
Michaelhouse, an elite boys-only boarding school in the KwaZulu-Natal
countryside. It was filmed at the school itself, although for some
reason the name was never mentioned, and the uniform, war-cry etc were
Spud is funny, touching, poignant, and the scenery is pretty too. I'm referring to the countryside around, but the young ladies in the cast contribute here as well. All actors are good/adequate in their roles, and John Cleese makes a creditable transition as an actor from clown to wise old man. Troye Sivan is very good as the bemused and put-upon Spud.
My problem with the book, and with the movie to a certain extent as well, is no fault of John van der Ruit or the movie makers themselves. It's about the people that you have to live with in such a situation.
I spent 5 years at Michaelhouse, and 2 years in National Service, and what made both times a lot less happy than they needed to be, were the people who went out of their way to make other people's lives unpleasant. In Spud it's Rambo, and to a lesser extent, one or two others in the Crazy Eight. Rambo especially, cannot just get on with his life and let others get on with theirs, he has to drag everyone along on his idiotic escapades. And then when they go awry, everyone has to pay. A thoroughly unpleasant person, but one who brought back memories of many such people in school and the army.
It's ironic that one of the books that the Guv offers to Spud, "Catch 22", falls into the same category for me. I've tried to read it twice ! But I find the character of Yossarian to be very similar to Rambo, and I can't get past a certain point. Maybe my reading of it is too coloured by my life in these 2 institutions.
I hope there are sequels and that we can follow Spud throughout his scholastic career. My life at Michaelhouse improved over the years as I learned to ignore the idiots and pursue my own interests. Let's hope we can trace Spud's rise similarly.
And I hope at the end of the final chapter, the camera lingers on the charge over the doorway into the Memorial Hall - a charge that I passed on to my own son at his coming of age - QUIT YOU LIKE MEN !
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