Three's a charm: El Sobky's "World War Three" breaks box office records
Nowadays any audience member who finds the trio of Shiko, Hesham Maged and Ahmed Fahmy on the poster of any film is guaranteed non-stop laughter. The trio’s latest film, El-Harb El-Alameya El-Thaletha (World War Three), is no exception.
Hitting the cinemas during the Eid holidays, the film was well-received, grossing LE4 million (over $560,000) in its first week in cinemas. However, unlike their past films – The Code, Samir and Shahin and Baheer, The Female Cousins and the television series El-Ragol El-Ennab which was aired in Ramadan 2013 – World War Three, as a comedy attempt, does not deliver.
World War Three follows Khamis (Ahmed Fahmy), a protagonist who drops his studies due to his love for football and belief he is an excellent player. One day as he is playing on the street, the ball flies into the Wax Museum. When he goes to retrieve it, he finds the statues have come to life.
The first scene of the film introduces Khamis (Ahmed Fahmy), his father (Mahmoud El-Gendy), a medicine supplies salesman who meets Moshter (Mohamed Abdelrahman) whom Khamis cons in a toilet sale. Even though this situation was a good start for the comedy, the film continued only to establish its humor on bits and one-liners. While some of them were fresh and original, they are not typical to the trio's usual comedy.
The reliance on this type of humor leaves a negative impact on the dramatic development of each character in the film. Khamis, Tutankhamoun (Shiko) and Aladdin (Hesham Maged) have relatively little dramatic development as a limited number of events leave minimal space for jokes.
However, this provided the opportunity for secondary characters to shine, among them Hagga Hobda (Inaam Salousa), alongside characters such as Bob Marley, Jafaar and The Master of Ghosts.
The comedic structure was not the only change in the trio's work. While they usually write films themselves, this time two scriptwriters worked on the script: Mostafa Sakr and Mohamed Ezz El-din. Equally the producers changed. The trio's films were previously being produced by Wael Abdallah, however they ran over the estimated budget and halted production a year and a half ago. This gave El-Sobky – a producer famous for kitch, and poor artistic value in production – to buy the film and cover the rest of its expenses. These two factors must have played a role in the change of the trio's comedy recipe.
Complete dependence on one-liner jokes is one element Sobky productions is famous for, and it seems the producer – due to the already established script – was not able to feature a belly dancer to complete his usual mix. However, he did manage to switch Donia Samir Ghanem, who was set to play Marlyn Monroe with singer and dancer Poussy. Sobky also got his favourite pop star Tamer Hosny to perform the film's main song.
One must wonder why the comedic trio opted to work with Sobky when their past works have made fun of his films and of Tamer Hosny's music.
The film, like most of their past works, depends on parody through which they are able to touch on historical characters in a funny way. Characters included Muhammad Ali, Ahmed Orabi, Raafat El-Haggan (who appeared as Mahmoud Abdelaziz who played him in a hit TV series) along with others.
Parody is based on making jokes based on the stereotypes that exist, deconstructing the complexities of history and forcing us to look at the realities in a different way. Accordingly, actress Samah Anwar's criticism of the film as misrepresenting history does not convince since historical accuracy is not aim of the movie.
Despite its many flaws, it is worth pointing to the high quality editing of Wael Farag, who weaved a lot of archival footage to the film's dramatic developments.