The Spud Phenomenon

Spud 3: Learning to Fly

spud_three_learning_to_fly

 

Director: John Barker

Cast: Troye Sivan, John Cleese, Casper Lee, Aaron McIlroy, Sven Ruygrok, Grant Swanby, Ben Voss, , Blessing Xaba, Luke Tyler, Alex McGregor

31 Million Reasons director John Barker takes over the helm of the third Spud film, Spud 3: Learning to Fly as the story, based upon a series of hugely successful novels is written for the screen by its author John van de Ruit, follows John Milton aka Spud as he enters Grade 11 or what was known as Standard Nine the year prior to Matric.

The crucial year is 1992 the year of the South African referendum in which white South Africans could vote on whether the then Nationalist Party’s current steps to dismantle apartheid was endorsed by the minority electorate, obliquely referred to in the film by a Sunday Times headline. This is a South Africa pre the 20 years of democracy scenario, and the setting is a wealthy all boys’ boarding school in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands – many of which still exist today.

John Milton, wonderfully played by South African expat, Troye Sivan, escapes the turmoil of his domestic life as his crazy parents seem intent on splitting for divorce after his mother catches his father (played by Durban comedian Aaron McIlroy) flirting with the voluptuous Portuguese neighbour. Back at school, there is trouble with the Crazy Eight (the group of friends who forged their ties in silly antics involving a secret tree house in Spud 2) led by the arrogant Rambo played by Sven Ruygrok, as some of the members aim to be confirmed and become a school prefect.

To make matters worse a new boy arrives from Malawi, Garth Garlic played by teen Youtube sensation Casper Lee, who desperately wants to be accepted into the Crazy Eight. Milton also has the threat of his school scholarship being revoked should he not prove himself both academically, theatrically and on oddly enough on the sports field.

Milton often seeks advice from the caustic and brilliant Guv, wonderfully played by veteran British comedian John Cleese from the Monty Python movies not to mention Faulty Towers. This really was a monumental casting coup for the Spud Trilogy to get someone as prolific as John Cleese to star in a South African film and really improved the marketability of the Spud franchise abroad especially in the UK and Australia where there are large South African expat communities residing.

To make matters worse a new boy arrives from Malawi, Garth Garlic played by teen Youtube sensation Casper Lee, who desperately wants to be accepted into the Crazy Eight. Milton also has the threat of his school scholarship being revoked should he not prove himself both academically, theatrically and on oddly enough on the sports field.

Milton often seeks advice from the caustic and brilliant Guv, wonderfully played by veteran British comedian John Cleese from the Monty Python movies not to mention Faulty Towers. This really was a monumental casting coup for the Spud Trilogy to get someone as prolific as John Cleese to star in a South African film and really improved the marketability of the Spud franchise abroad especially in the UK and Australia where there are large South African expat communities living.

spud_two_the_madness_continues

Whilst Spud 2: The Madness Continues was meant to be humorous and silly in parts, Spud 3: Learning to Fly has a stronger script giving more flesh to some of the supporting characters especially the rest of the Crazy Eight gang including Fatty played by Blessings Xaba. The female characters are also better written and Van de Ruit cleverly frames the action of Spud 3 firmly within the third term antics of a disastrous production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at St Catherine’s all girls’ boarding school.

Spud 3: Learning to Fly is a more coherent and less juvenile production showing not only that the characters have matured more as they should have, but the cast has become naturally more familiar with the Spud Phenomenon. This is a humorous family film, with all the recognizable trials and tribulations of teenage boys navigating puberty, peer pressure and that urge to survive high school with their male pride intact. Think a more diluted Dead Poets Society, specifically South African yet unfortunately not filmed in KwaZulu-Natal.

If there is going to be a fourth installment of the Spud franchise let’s hope that it is actually filmed in KZN, showing off Durban and the Midlands for their unique beauty. Director Barker has done this before in the heist thriller 31 Million Reasons in which he really showed Durban off as a superb cinematic location. Spud 3: Learning to Fly is highly recommended viewing, proudly South African, poignant, nostalgic and appealing adding to the huge success of the first two movies.

 

 

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