Egypt’s male answer to Beyoncé, the ubiquitous Tamer Hosny, is a spectacularly hardworking man. A man who does not allow his busy schedule of album releases, TV appearances, film releases and complicated hair maintenance to prevent him from updating his own Wikipedia entry (sample: “Favorite Place: Any Calm Place with light light [sic] ).
The love of his fans, he says, is “the most valuable thing given to him. So conscientious is he of his duty towards his fans that not even a brief sojourn in prison following a mishap with a forged passport and a date with the army could stop our Tamer, and he released an album, “Einaya Bethebbak (My Eyes Love You) while doing porridge.
I wonder if Tamer drew on his prison experiences whilst preparing for his latest role in Captain Hima, written and directed by his long-time associate, producer and pop star manufacturer, Nasr Mahrous.
The film – essentially a 90-minute music video inconvenienced by a dull script and poor acting thrust in between Tamer’s costume changes – is the story of Ibrahim, a.k.a. Hima, a loveable, cheeky school bus driver who, we are to understand, is mad keen on football – from whence the captain.
The purpose of the frustrated footballer theme is to tell us that economic circumstances following the death of his parents in a car accident have conspired against this talented, honest, hard-working young man and shattered his dreams – but not, apparently, his ability to buy an extensive and expensive-looking wardrobe of outfits.
Hima looks exactly like Tamer Hosny – not only because he is Tamer Hosny – but because Tamer Hosny’s idea of getting into character is changing the angle of his hair. But then he needn’t trouble himself with acting skills, because Captain Hima is after all a Tamer Hosny vehicle. This is made clear from one of the very first scenes, when Tamer is cleaning his bus and a teaching assistant bursts on in a groupie manner and excitedly expounds on how beautiful Hima, or Tamer is, while the huge elephant of Hosny’s celebrity looks on from the back of the bus.
The film’s obligatory love interest comes in the form of Zeina, who plays a standoffish but highly attractive teacher with whom cheeky Hima immediately fall in love.
Guess what! Zeina is from a wealthy family, and as has already been established, Hima isn’t. For the 984,000th time in the history of cinema the love across the class divide theme is rehashed with absolutely nothing new added, in what is little more than a reprise of “Hassan Tayara, another cinematic atrocity released earlier this year.
Like Razan in Hassan Tayara, Zeina is being bothered by a suitor, Hossam, who is wealthy and well-connected but otherwise odious. He wants to marry her, inundating her with gifts and unannounced appearances and free dinners as part of his seduction campaign, and generally makes a nuisance of himself. Zeina is all at sea, torn between him and her steadily growing attraction to Hima/Tamer along with his assorted collection of leather wristbands.
Meanwhile, Hima is continuing his own campaign of proving-what-a-solid-guy-he-is . We see him caring for his teenage sister, Toota, who was not killed in the car accident but suffers from an unidentified illness which makes her fragile and liable to expire at any moment but alas does not stop her from being intensely irritating.
The Muslim Hima is also best friends with his neighbor, who is Christian.
We are constantly reminded of this fact both by a) the huge bishop-sized cross he wears around his neck; b) his eating in front of Hima during Ramadan while proclaiming that he has never eaten in front of anyone fasting before remembering that it is Ramadan (oh, how we laughed); and c) the Christian iconography to which he prays each time Toota is rushed into hospital.
The clumsy thrusting of this Sesame Street-style interfaith theme in our faces was entirely pointless and almost tokenistic.
But then none of the film’s themes are expanded on, apart from the insipid Tamer-Zeina love story. One of the charges on Tamer’s bus has an incontinence problem, and tells him that his nanny beats him. Tamer takes the little boy home and confronts the wicked nanny and then this particular storyline stops dead.
And that’s because Hima and Zeina are going camping with her school charges. Both of them wake up each morning looking immaculate, despite being in the middle of the desert, Tamer’s cardboard hair unruffled by the desert winds and Zeina putting practicality first in a pair of moon boots.
Zeina discovers Tamer reading a book – Gasp – in English, allowing Tamer to bore us with a short lecture about why being a bus driver doesn’t mean you can’t be educated and intellectual and have good taste, though his collection of skin-tight disco t-shirts challenges this theory somewhat.
There then follows an action packed scene when, for a reason which is not clear, silly Zeina falls over in a perfectly still, moored boat. While looking through a pair of binoculars at nothing at all and manages to knock herself out in the process. Perhaps her moon boots had compromised her equilibrium?
Ever alert, Tamer bounds over and snatches her from the jaws of a slight headache.
All this is a lead up to a song on the shores of a lake which would be merely tedious, if it were not for the drunk-man-harassing-a-woman-in-a-pub nature of the lyrics. “This is what draws me to you Tamer declares, while clearly and unmistakably looking at Zeina’s bosoms. Rather than giving him a slap, Zeina skips along, smiling coyly. “I kiss my hand because it’s shaken your hand in greeting, Tamer warbles – apparently taking a new, more oblique approach after the sexual harassment tactic didn’t bear fruit.
And the worst thing is, we find out, that this nonsense didn’t actually happen: Tamer dreamt it. Well, Mahrous had to shoehorn in the singing-next-to-a great-expanse-of-water-scene somehow, I suppose. No contemporary mass-consumption Egyptian film involving a singer is complete without it.
Back in Cairo and Hossam the unctuous suitor pops up again until Zeina finally pulls her finger out and gives him his marching orders. Then everything goes berserk. First, a poorly-rendered “Speed -like scene when the school bus’ brakes stop working but a huge pile of sand conveniently parked at the side of the road both saves the day and the need for any convincing special effects.
Then Toota is hospitalized and Tamer is arrested on murder charges concocted by evil Hossam and held for four days, allowing him to employ his method acting techniques and draw on his prison experience. (The result: he paces up and down his cell looking at the ceiling while we are forced to listen to him singing).
The film’s ends with the inevitable Zorro-like confrontation between Hima and Hossam, Hossam telling Hima “God made classes so that everyone knows their place.
“No, Hima informs him sanctimoniously “God made classes to complement each other, before everything ends happily ever after and Tamer and Nasr Mahrous go off to the bank.