Sketch comedy can be a right royal pain to translate into a full-length feature film, but anyone who wants to try it could do worse than take a long, good look at what makes the Dutch film "New Kids Turbo"
so ridiculously successful. And I do mean ridiculous: mere weeks after "Sint"
broke Dutch ticket-sales records, these got run over again by "New Kids Turbo"
. Extra prints needed to be made in a hurry, cinema schedules changed and a foreign bidding war started on this film. Fast food restaurants now sell the "knoepert" which is a snack based on a New Kids recipe, and even a fireworks line was launched (haha) featuring the heads of the actors on its boxes.
In short, The Netherlands are facing a hype of truly epic proportions. And the biggest surprise is how well the film at the heart of it all manages to withstand critical scrutiny.
A Bit of History, Kut!
The New Kids were already quite well-known before they got their own film. Starting in 2007 as a series of online sketches (then still named "The New Kids on the Block"
after... well, you know), their popularity grew quickly.
Despite these sketches being incredibly rude and violent, a television series was made and sold to commercial channels like MTV and Comedy Central. Although the episodes at first starred many different characters which were all played by the same cast, "Little Britain"
style, the most popular sketches featured five twenty-something white trash guys from the small village of "Maaskantje" in North-Brabant (an area located in the South of The Netherlands, as South-Brabant is actually in the North of Belgium). Known simply as the "New Kids"
whose main character trait was that they were extremely anti-social, they became the centerpiece of the series and started popping up everywhere on television. They got cameos in other shows and even music videos. The many curse words used by the New Kids, pronounced in their distinct dialect (all actors are really from Maaskantje), became countrywide catchphrases.
"Verrekte Mongol!!!" (damn' mongoloid), "Jonguh!!!", (dude) but most of all the habit of putting "Kut!!!" (cunt) at the end of every other line of dialog could now be heard everywhere.
Of course this popularity brought with it many controversies big and small: lots of people were offended by the series, t-shirts with "Verrekte Mongol!!!" on them were not appreciated by parents of mentally handicapped children, and the village of Maaskantje has stopped replacing its roadsigns as they got stolen on a daily basis.
The series even got popular in Germany despite our Eastern neighbors losing the benefit of the dialect jokes.
Plans for a third television series were interrupted by an offer from Eyeworks Studios to make a movie instead, and the rest is history: "New Kids Turbo"
premiered in December 2010 to unprecedented success.
The Story, Kut!
As North Brabant is hit full-force by the economic crisis and lay-offs are everywhere, all of the New Kids (Rikkert, Barrie, Richard, Robbie and Gerrie) lose their jobs. Without any means of income and no longer eligible for Welfare they decide to just take what they need and never again pay for anything.
But when a television crew starts following the New Kids as a regular source of spectacular news, they become more popular than anyone imagined and people start to follow their example. Social unrest and riots follow. Before long, The Government starts to use ever more drastic measures to try and arrest the New Kids...
The Film, Kut!
Now before I start with the superlatives, know this: I'm actually not a big fan of the television series. The episodes sure have their moments and are definitely good for a few chuckles each, but they become pretty tiresome if you try to watch four or five in a row.
And because of this I entered the cinema with trepidation, dragged along with friends. How was this one-joke ensemble going to keep me from getting either punch-drunk or (worse) bored in the next 90 minutes?
Well, I wasn't punch-drunk at the end and I hadn't been bored for even a second. If anything, I left the cinema elated and satisfied. "New Kids Turbo"
fully delivers and is astonishingly polished on a technical level. I totally didn't expect this: kudos to Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil for knowing how to direct a full-length film. You'd never think this was their first one judging by the level of quality.
Yet the central joke is exactly the same as the one from the series: the New Kids behave shockingly rude while cowardly bystanders and incompetent police can do nothing but look on bewildered. Yet although this makes the film brush the same territories of embarrassment as "Borat"
, "New Kids Turbo"
never claims to use hidden-camera footage. Everything is staged.
What sets the film apart from the series is budget and scale. The feature-length is used to escalate the situations far beyond what was ever possible in the series, and watching this happen is well... fun! It gets to the point where the New Kids, armed to the teeth, have to defend their village against a veritable invading army of anti-terrorist elite troops. It speaks volumes that at this point in the movie, the audience stands squarely behind the kids despite their despicable behavior.
For this is the film's biggest success: it is totally character-driven. Each of the kids gets their moment in the sun, and each emerges from the movie slightly changed. And these lowlifes aren't glorified either: the script never rewards their rude behavior in ways they expect, while the occasional good deed actually does get returned. The actors have now been playing these idiots for the past four years and now wear their trashy personas as gloves, so much so that I always thought that the guy playing Barrie Butsers was a true halfwit. Thing is, that's actually the same Flip van der Kuil who co-wrote the scenario, co-directed the film and did the (stellar) editing. When you see the actors being interviewed on television while out-of-character they are almost unrecognizable.
Watching these guys work together is fun in itself. Having worked in the past as a laborer in a storage facility, I can tell you first hand that the attitude and body-language on display here is SPOT ON. The way Richard, the leader of the pack, behaves towards the others looks completely natural. On the lowest rung is Gerrie, who constantly overdoes his efforts to impress the other guys and manages to wreck so much of their stuff that he comes across as a hopeless child. His behavior-change when someone else temporarily gets to be the black sheep of the group is almost scary.
Furthermore the film contains many satirical jabs at our national apathy, the media's search for new reality-television shows and the perceived arrogance of the Dutch Government in The Hague towards the provinces in the South and East.
All in all "New Kids Turbo"
comes across as a remarkably accomplished, finished
product. The plot makes fun of its own holes or finds creative ways of stopping them. The camera-work has some impressive flourishes. The soundtrack is a hilarious combination of scoring and happy hardcore.
Interestingly, the dialect is not used much as a basis for jokes even though it is VERY prevalent throughout the movie. A smart choice as this will make "New Kids Turbo"
far easier to export to other countries.
On the other hand there are some Dutch celebrity cameos as well and these will be totally lost on a foreign audience.
One of the weirdest sequences has the New Kids meeting the very popular Dutch actor Antonie Kamerling, who suffered from depressions and committed suicide two months before this film's premiere. The meeting in the film is without a single joke, and basically just has the New Kids saying Goodbye to him. A very odd moment in the film, and the cinema went completely silent, as if we all said Goodbye to him as well. And immediately after this tribute, the film suddenly picks up again with great speed, literally throwing in the Turbo. But instead of a break it seems weirdly fitting.
In fact, the overall editing is very good. The pacing is faultless and that is of course VERY important in a comedy. Running gags (many taken over straight from the television series) now have breathing space and become a returning treat. Impressively, some jokes get their punchlines more than an hour after their set-up, especially during the final battle.
It makes "New Kids Turbo"
a very strong cinema debut. As the actors have announced to take a break from portraying the New Kids for a few years and focus on other projects, I'm very curious about what they'll do next.
They may have started as a bunch of friends doing free on-line comedy, but with this film they've shown to be truly talented and, furthermore, extremely commercially viable. And fun.
Spectacularly rude, funny as hell, and excellently paced, "New Kids Turbo"
turned out to be so much better than I expected...
Some of the jokes might not travel well but there are plenty left which will remain funny. If you have the stomach for chaotic, politically incorrect comedy this movie comes highly recommended.