DON’T MESS WITH MAASKANTJE!
DON’T MESS WITH MAASKANTJE!
Dutch film critic Barend de Voogd talks about the pop-cultural phenomenon of New Kids Turbo and New Kids Nitro
For most Canadians, our memory-recall for Dutch cinema is probably limited to the films of Dick Maas (The Lift), George Sluizer (The Vanishing) and of course Paul Verhoeven (Turkish Delight/The Fourth Man), whose most well-known films were nonetheless made outside of the Netherlands. The Dutch industry is very small, catering largely to a regional audience, so when the New Kids hit the scene in 2007, it was a bit of an unexpected phenomenon.
The New Kids series started as a web show in 2007 (called New Kids on the Block for its first two seasons) before being picked up by Comedy Central in 2009. It focuses on 5 obnoxious characters – Richard, Barrie, Robbie, Gerrie and Rikkert – who adopt a 90s white trash aesthetic known in the Netherlands as “Johnnys and Anitas”, a pejorative reference to names that were once popular among the Dutch working class.[i] They drive like maniacs, eat copious amounts of fried food, call women whores and drink beer constantly, and most have horrendous mullets that probably deserve some kind of art direction award in and of themselves. “Their type of humour – one of their favourite words is ‘kut!’ which translates as ‘cunt’- is very crude,” says Barend de Voogd, Editor-in-Chief of Holland’s Schokkend Nieuws Filmmagazine (www.schokkendnieuws.nl ) and programmer for the Imagine Fantastic Film Festival in Amsterdam. “I wouldn’t say it’s typical [of Dutch humour], although the most influential genre-director in Holland – Dick Maas – does have a streak for vulgar language. Still, it was never been brought to this level before, and that explains part of its success.”
The 2010 theatrical debut of the miscreant gang, New Kids Turbo, broke Dutch box office records for opening night performance and set in motion a pop-cultural sensation that Dutch kids would cling to with a facetious sense of regional identity. “Their town, Maaskantje, DOES exist,” say de Voogd, “and since the popularity of the series/films, city signs get stolen all the time.”
New Kids Turbo is set against the backdrop of the financial crisis; employers are forced to lay off their most useless employees, which in this case happen to be the five antisocial, conventionally incompetent characters at the heart of the New Kids. All five find themselves jobless and homeless and turn to ringleader Richard to put them up while they figure out how to get some money. Of course having this many destructive losers in close quarters is bad news, and it’s not long before they come up with a plan to “never pay for anything ever again!”, and set out on a petty crime spree that gets the attention of the local media, who posit the New Kids as social activists – which in turn prompts a wave of nationwide riots and a military shootout.
Backed by the throbbing 90s happycore/Gabber music of DJ Paul Elstak, the film’s slapstick comedy becomes more un-PC and full of non-sequiturs as the action gets more sped-up, intense and ridiculous, until it becomes an anarchic explosion of sights and sounds that can only end, of course, in a penis joke. But triumph belongs to the New Kids, and they are back a year later with New Kids Nitro, which sees them leading their village of Maaskaantje into a rumble with the neighbouring town of Schijndel¸where they soon find themselves at the center of a zombie outbreak. The action gets more preposterous, with Rikkert’s bright green Opel Manta now a souped-up armored Mad Max machine. Grown men get perms, Barrie trades in his track suit for a Crow-style floor-length trenchcoat and Richard gets an eyepatch, qualifying him as an anti-hero of epic proportions. “It’s is definitely meant to caricaturize the people in the south of Holland (the province of Brabant),” offers de Voogd, “especially the fans of the Gabber-house music culture.”
But the southern working class are not alone in being punk’d: “In New Kids Nitro the song ‘Hoeren neuken, nooit meer werken’ (‘Fuck hookers, never work again’) is performed by Corry Konings. A great joke, because Corry is a famous singer of Dutch tearjearker songs, starting in the 70s as leadsinger of ‘Corry en de Rekels’. Her most famous song is ‘Huilen is voor jouw te laat’( ‘It’s too late for you to cry’). It appears she was totally unaware of the joke being played on her.”
The New Kids officially disbanded earlier this year, so time will tell where they make an appearance next. In an interview in Schokkend Nieuws, the New Kids’ co-director Steffen Haars (who plays Robbie) cited Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow as inspirations. “He said they are dreaming of an American career,” recalls de Voogd. Something tells me they will fit right in.
NEW KIDS TURBO screens Aug. 3rd at 10:05pm and again on Aug. 8th at 5:45pm, both in the Hall Theatre.
NEW KIDS NITRO screens Aug 6th at 9:55pm and again on Aug. 8th at 7:40pm, both in the Hall Theatre.
[i] The Dutch Alternative dictionary even lists an Opel Manta car – the car Rikkert drives in the New Kids series- as being a “Johnny’s” vehicle of choice. http://www.alternative-dictionaries.net/dictionary/Dutch/1.html