Fantastic Fest 2012: This Is A Review For NEW KIDS NITRO, Homo!
One of the biggest surprises moviewise last year was "New Kids Turbo", a full-length Dutch feature describing the chaos surrounding five anti-social characters from a series of short television sketches. That people tried to cash in on the popularity of these comedians wasn't surprising but the quality of the end product was: the film was absolutely frigging hilarious and far better made than expected beforehand. You can read my full review (this part of the sentence is a link) for a full account but rest assured I was mighty impressed, especially since it was a first full-length feature effort for directors Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil.
Now, one year later, they're back with a new movie: "New Kids Nitro". And this time the New Kids face their biggest threat yet: higher audience expectations!
Can the New Kids still impress or is this just a lesser retread of their previous outing? Read on!
The Story, Kut!
After the events of the first film, the New Kids from the Brabantian village of Maaskantje (Rikkert, Barrie, Richard, Robbie and Gerrie) are on probation. Which is a drag because it means they need to behave a bit or they'll get thrown in jail. This restraint unfortunately means the group cannot retaliate at full force when challenged by a similar group of thugs from the neighboring village of Schijndel.
Especially the New Kids leader Richard is keen on staying out of prison as he has to take care of his sick mother. But the conflict with the Schijndel gang escalates quickly to a point of no return, forcing the New Kids to choose between honor and liberty.
Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers to the North in Friesland a comet has crashed into a field, and is slowly transforming the Friesian people into a vast army of flesh-eating zombies...
The Movie, Kut!
Normally I don't think it is fair to compare a sequel to the film which preceded it, especially when that sequel is trying to do things a bit differently. With "New Kids Nitro" avoiding comparison is difficult though, firstly because there is less than a year separating the two and secondly because "New Kids Nitro" immediately starts with a direct comparison by a snobbish fan. Indeed, the Kids get chided for reusing the same jokes and depending too much on the same staples, seen not just in the first movie but also in the two television series which preceded the film, and the free on-line shorts which preceded even those series. Said fan is quickly removed from the film through exactly such a staple and the message to the audience is clear: shut up Kut, and enjoy the film for what it is. Bold, rude, funny, and exactly what you'd expect from the New Kids.
But there you also hit a problem: a lot of what makes the New Kids so funny is the element of surprise, with the biggest laughs being caused by these thugs managing to be even ruder than you imagined. Having them be exactly as rude as you imagined is a bit of a step down. And where the first film fully exploited the opportunity for escalation by giving the New Kids a shitload of guns to play around with, this time that ceiling has been reached already.
Another problem is that in Turbo everyone could sort-of side with the New Kids because of our shared pain concerning the economic crisis, and the feelings of impotent anger we all walk around with on the issue. This context is sorely missed in Nitro where we just see the New Kids try and win a match in offensiveness, which sure is fun but also more shallow.
Shooting bazookas at an invading army of police vans is shocking and quite subversive, so does shooting a machinegun at an army of zombies actually top that? Hm...
Speaking of which, adding zombies into the mix is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it allows for more gore and ultraviolence, but on the other hand it takes the New Kids far away from their roots and to be honest the benefits do not outweigh the losses here. Zombies are pretty special for a movie from The Netherlands and we've never seen them being used on such an apocalyptic scale here before, with over 150 extras stumbling around in some scenes, all wearing very impressive corpse make-up. But worldwide there have been millions of zombie films by now, to the point where even zombie comedies are a tired sub-genre already.
Having said that, the zombie subplot gets resolved with a shot so offensive, so rude, that the whole audience at my screening could not help guffawing in shock at what was shown on the screen. I'm not sure how well that particular joke will travel beyond our borders (there is some... history involved...) but that this idea was actually executed shows Steffen and Flip have major balls.
In fact, after all of my griping let's focus a bit on what is good. While "New Kids Nitro" lacks its prequel's tightness in both story and escalation of jokes (a traitor subplot even totally lacks a payoff...), separate parts are very well done indeed. The technical skills on display here are once again impressive: camerawork, sound and editing change whenever a different genre is being spoofed and the overal film looks polished.
But the biggest asset still remains the New Kids themselves. They are as offensive as ever and I think a third of their entire conversation consists of yelling "homo!" and "kut!" at each other. While some of them remain a bit more in the background than in the previous film, Huub Smit and especially Wesley van Gaalen (who play gang leader Richard and Opel Manta driver Rikkert) show an onscreen charisma which promises volumes for the future. Outside of the central group Guido Pollemans is brilliant as "D'n Dave", the snorting hyper-angry leader of the Schijndel gang.
All in all "New Kids Nitro" is at its best when it treats its leads as humans and its settings as realistic. When it veers more and more into the absurd during the second half it still is fun in an adolescent way, but the film then starts to rely too much on its characters remaining exactly the same instead of showing the growth which gave the first film such a surprisingly grown-up veneer.
While I liked the film I didn't love it like I did the first one. The New Kids themselves are still hilarious but taken out of their usual semi-realistic context you lose a lot of what made them so special in the first place, and "New Kids Nitro" suffers a lot because of that.
While I wholeheartedly recommend "New Kids Turbo" (at least to everyone not easily offended) even after several subsequent viewings, I would pause a bit before doing the same with "New Kids Nitro". I still recommend it, but you need to be a fan of the first already to truly like it.
This review originally ran in December of 2011.