Before 2021’s He’s All That, South Africa came up with this gender reversal of the 1999 hit film and meshed it with the sports film, in this case, rugby.
Katrien Swanepoel is a high school senior who had it all. She is the most popular girl with her boyfriend being the best rugby player in school, Werner “Killer” Botha. However, when Werner decides to put his love for the sport ahead of his love for Katrien, he decides to dump her. Upset and seeking revenge, Katrien makes the decision to find the nerdiest guy in school and turn him into a rugby player worthy of being competition for Werner. Making a bet with classmate Liezl, Katrien finds her man for the job, Wimpie Koekemoer.
Wimpie has only two friends in Japie and Fanie, has an overprotective and overbearing mother, and has a mild-mannered father. Katrien sees Wimpie as the perfect one she can transform into an able-bodied rugby player. However, he will need training. Katrien sets Wimpie up with her grandfather Basjan du Preez, one of the best players in the old regime of the Springboks. Katrien slowly begins to fall in love with Wimpie. However, what will happen if Wimpie learns about the bet and how it will affect his relationship with Katrien?
A throwback to some of the late 80’s early 90’s teen comedies minus the required “TnA”, it is best to describe this as a meshing of the sports comedy (like Jocks, Hot Dog the Movie, Wildcats) with a gender reversal of the hit 1999 film She’s All That, a full 13 years before the official He’s All That film was released. And overall, this is a fun film to watch, and one would never imagine this would be the first film in a trilogy.
Ivan Botha is fun to watch as the nerdy Wimpie, who undergoes a massive transformation from embarrassed nerdy to worthy rugby player. He plays a character who not only has crazy to deal with in school, but at home too thanks to his insane mother, played by Karen Fourie, whose character is reminiscent of Lin Shaye’s insane mother from Detroit Rock City. His buddies Fanie and Japie, played by Andrew Thompson and Nail Sharim, are very much the comic relief who convey the 80’s teen movie motif as they are a bit obsessed with a certain aspect of that genre and go as far as accidentally seeking a therapist who is an expert in the subject.
Cherie van der Merwe is great as Katrien. Like Wimpie, she also goes through a transformation. She starts out as arrogant and popular. She is determined to get revenge on her now ex-boyfriend by turning the class nerd into a rugby player. However, as the film progresses, she sees that being popular doesn’t mean much later in life as she falls for the nerd. She and Botha exhume such great chemistry as both undergo their own transformations.
The legendary Ian Roberts always makes his role work well and here, he is great as former Springbok player Basjan, Katrien’s grandfather. Wimpie sees Basjan as more than a mentor, but in some ways a father figure who uses rugby metaphors for life. As for Werner himself, Altus Theart does an impeccable job of playing the big man on campus as kind of a egotistical jerk who would rather focus on the sport than balance his relationship with Katrien and the sport.
Bakgat! is a good meshing of a sports comedy with a She’s All That gender reversal thanks to great chemistry between Ivan Botha and Cherie van der Merwe, plus the little nuances to 80’s teen movies is quite fun to watch.
WFG RATING: A-
A production of The Film Factory. Director: Henk Pretorius. Producer: Danie Bester. Writers: Henk Pretorius and Danie Bester. Cinematography: Tom Marais. Editing: C.A. van Aswegen.
Cast: Ivan Botha, Cherie van der Merwe, Altus Theart, Andrew Thompson, Neil Sharim, Ciske Kruger, Leila Etsebeth, Helene Lombard, Deon Coetzee Ian Roberts, Karen Fourie, Andre Retief.