Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

The heart of the statue

Animated statues, World War III — and Soha Hesham

Al-Ahram Weekly

World War III, one of five Eid films, is the third big-screen venture by the troika Ahmed Fahmi, Shiko and Hisham Maged. They started with Tamr Hendi Video Production, making parodies of such films as Regal La Ta’rif Al-Mostahil (Men who Don’t Know the Impossible) and Al-Tariq Ela Eilat (The Road to Eilat, which features a disclaimer at the beginning to the effect that they are mocking the film, not the efforts of the army prior to the 1973 war). Their commercial debut Samir wa Shahir wa Bahir (2010), directed by Moataz Al-Touni, proved a big hit, and so did following film, Banat Al-Aam (Cousins, 2012), directed by Ahmed Samir Farag and Ehab Amr. All three were written by Hisham Maged and Shiko.

Choosing to watch a troika film is a clear statement of one’s desire to laugh; and their original comedy does live up to expectations despite the difficulties it presents to an audience used to traditional and New Wave comedy. World War III also starts with a disclaimer, stating that while there is a resemblance between the film and Shawn Levy’s Hollywood production Night at the Museum, it is not a direct copy of the latter film. This in itself made the audience, since it sounded like an oblique admission that it was a copy, but in fact World War III is not the same thing at all.

Set in a wax museum that features Egyptian historical figures as well as world icons, the film is the story of Khamis (Ahmed Fahmi), who goes into the museum to bring back his football after it broke one of the windows in the building. Khamis is stuck inside after the waking hour of the wax statues to find himself surrounding by live statues of Ahmed Orabi, Umm Kulthoum, King Tutankhamun played by Shiko, Raafat Al-Hagan the famous Egyptian spy (who at the end of the film escapes to Israel), Al-Nasser Salaheddin, Elvis Presley (who bribes the sphinx to let him into the room of Tutankhamun), Bob Marley played by the brilliant Youssef Eid) and Aladdin (Hisham Maged, who dreams of fleeing to Disney Land, where he would be more appreciated) and Nermine Monroe (a low-class Egyptian bar version of Marilyn).

The film breaks the rules of traditional comedy with its unusual sense of humour, with the two writers blending fantasy with abrupt realism to deliver one shock after another, always displaying a refreshing awareness of Egyptian realities. The jokes are therefore fresh. In one scene, for example, one of the statues is explaining to Khamis that they wake up as live statues from 6pm till 6am the next day, and that they’ve found it hard to adjust to frequent time switches to save or extend daylight (something everyone in Egypt will instantly relate to). Likewise historical figure are fascinating comments on who we are: King Tutankhamun is a naïve, chubby young man, Mohamed Ali is a hesitant man with a Oedipal complex towards Tutankhamun, the fixed statue of the Sphinx as a guard near the room of the king demands bribes from everyone.

The idea of the film begins to come together with the appearance of Howaida (Inaam Salousa) kidnapping Khamis and persuading him to steal a secret book of spells hidden in the room of King Tutankhamun in order to freeze the statues of the museum and bring to life a whole new set of characters from the most influential warriors in the history of the world to place them under her command with a view to world domination. On many occasions, the difference between humans and statues are mentioned, tipping the scale in favour of the statues; when one person discovers that another is insensitive or cruel, they say, “You can’t be a statue. You must be human.”

The battle commences when Howaida gets hold the book and visits the museum, during which time strange things start happening including the disappearance of the Great Pyramid in Giza, followed by the appearance of the two lion-statues of the Qasr Al-Nil Bridge at the museum itself. Howaida’s new team includes Hitler, Dracula, Hulagu and many more; she has been working for years on their wax statues and waiting for the spell to give them the kiss of life. Now the world really is poised for war…

Laughter aside, the special effects are convincing, benefiting from advanced graphic work; it shows the metal lions with the writing people have left on them in reality, for example, even as they move. Critics have already voiced discontent with the film mocking the high and mighty, but they’re missing the point.

add comment

  • follow us on