A Load of Rooibos
The whole production was generous to a fault and the fault was this: it was like a blacked-up Vicar of Dibley. The characters were benign, one-dimensional eccentrics enveloped in prevailing sweetness. In a film written and made by white men about black people, it felt twee and patronising
The Vicar of Dibley, in my humble opinion, is a comic masterpiece. That aside, the books had no depth or suspense, were clumsily written and deeply tedious.
As an attempt to show a different side to Africa – compared to the normal one we see on TV or at the movies – then maybe it works. On a recent trip to Botswana I really did see a shop named “Really Nice Bakery”. It’s just that, as I sit in Khartoum on my way to Darfur on the day Zimbabwe goes to the polls and having left behind a country that may or may not have just ended two months of tribal killing, it’s not a side of Africa that I see very often.
Then again, would anyone complain that PG Wodehouse failed to paint a realistic portrait of Britain? Who doesn’t enjoy a good Miss Marple on the telly? As Max Hastings points out in The Daily Mail, “most of our favourite detective story characters inhabit fantasy worlds – Miss Marple in St. Mary Mead, Lord Peter Wimsey in London clubland, Inspector Morse in Oxford.”
For my money, The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond – two vastly different films – captured something close to the essence of parts of Africa. The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books don’t. But as a bit of diverting telly it’s probably quite good fun, although I won’t be watching it.