Van der Merwe (South Africa, 2017)

South African comedian Rob van Vuuren stars in this hilarious comedy about a man torn between his daughter’s happiness and his family’s traditions.

Van is a Boer farmer who is somewhat the black sheep of his family. He lives happily on his farm with wife Suzette and son Klein Jan. His father, Schalk, always ridicules him in front of his siblings. However, Van is about to get some shocking news. His daughter, Marike, is returning from England and she has just announced she is engaged to Englishman George. The news does not bode well with Van and his family with the exception of Suzette, who was in a similar situation with her family.

When Schalk learns about the engagement, he demands that Van find a way to end the engagement as he is against all Englishmen because of his old traditional values. The townsfolk are even talking about George. When Marike and George finally arrive, Van slowly begins to feel conflicted and even plots to break the marriage at first. However, when George’s parents and grandmother arrives for the wedding, Van decides he must do whatever it takes to make sure Marike is happy. However, Van’s attempts to bond with the family constantly ends up with disastrous results. Will he be able to succeed with the wedding and risk facing his father’s wrath and possible disownment?

In the age where many American comedies rely on more exploitative fare with nudity and language, this South African comedy relies on the days of old school humor thanks to Bruce Lawley’s script and direction. This could be re-titled My Big Fat Boer Wedding, with a similar theme but in the context, we have the father’s point of view rather than focus on the bride of the film. It’s basically a meshing of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Father of the Bride South African-style.

Leading the way is the hilarious Rob van Vuuren as our titular character. Changing his look by shaving part of his hair and wearing a big suit, van Vuuren is hilarious as he brings his comic style to the role. There is plenty of sarcasm, literal humor, and slapstick that makes the film work as a whole. The comic actor even pulls off some hilarious facial movements that make the film very funny to watch. This is exactly the comic star perfect for the role. His attempts to make everyone happy meets with both hilarious and disastrous results, especially one gross-out sequence with a cow when meeting his future son-in-law’s parents.

The supporting cast is fun to watch as well. Chanelle de Jager is Van’s level-headed wife Suzette, who fully supports their daughter’s engagement and loves the fiancé George, played by Matthew Baldwin. Playing the daughter Marike is Reine Swart, who tends to make any role she does work extremely well. She is truly in love in the way Nia Vardalos’ Toula in MBFGW is in love with John Corbett’s Ian despite her father’s constant futile attempts to stop it at first. The legendary Ian Roberts plays patriarch Schalk, who is hellbent on finding anything to stop the wedding or ensure Van does it. Andre Jacobs and Adrienne Pearce are fun as George’s parents, who in essence, are somewhat similar to what Marike goes through with Van. Which could explain why George is such a level-headed character who can telegraph Van with his way of thinking, because he feels that way about his parents.

Van der Merwe is a hilarious South African meshing of Father of the Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding with Rob van Vuuren showcasing his hilarious brand of comedy to a tee. The supporting cast and hijinks are essentially in a tone that has long been missed in comedy films today.

WFG RATING: A

A Van Der Merwe Films Production. Director: Bruce Lawley. Producers: Bruce Lawley, Bruce MacDonald, Murray MacDonald, and Craig Jones. Writer: Bruce Lawley. Cinematography: Bruce MacDonald. Editing: Jessie Viljoen.

Cast: Rob van Vuuren, Chanelle de Jager, Reine Swart, Matthew Baldwin, Andre Jacobs, Adrienne Pearce, Ian Roberts, Rika Sennett, Clare Marshall, Barry Hilton, Neels van Jaarsveld.

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