Review: Urbanus the garbage hero (2019)


Directed by: Joost Van Den Bosch, Erik Verkerk | 73 minutes | animation, comedy | Original voice cast: Urbanus, Ben Segers, Sven de Ridder, Ron Cornet, Pieter Embrechts, Frances Lefebure, Sien Eggers, Tom van Dyck, Ludo Hellinx, Dimitri Leue, Koen van Impe, Tuur Verelst, Thijs J. Antonneau, Wout Verstappen, Mark Verstraete, Anke Helsen

The Flemish comedian Urbanus (born Urbain Servranckx) has been one of the leading humorists in his country since 1974. Admittedly, nowadays his humor looks a bit stale and lackluster. But with his subversive absurdism he managed to kick against many sacred houses for a long time. It is a form of direct humor that also caught on in the Netherlands. The provocateur reinforced that rebellious image with a comic series named after himself. Together with screenwriter and draftsman Willy Linthout, he is working on a series that in 2019 covers almost 200 albums. With themes such as sex, religion and family, the satire is emphatically present. After a few feature films, ‘Urbanus de Vuilnisheld’ now shows this comic version of the comedian the film honors.

Urbanus, portrayed as a bearded child, lives with his father Cesar and mother Eufrazie in the fictional Tollembeek. Together with his best friends, the doglike Nabuko and fly Amedee, he has the wildest adventures. In ‘De Vuilnisheld’ the adults face the children. When Jef Patat, the recurring villain in the comic series, makes a seemingly lucrative deal in disguise with the adults of Tollembeek, the children have no choice but to revolt. Jef Patat wants, in exchange for gold, to dump all the waste from the land in the village. But when push comes to shove, there is no trace of the gold. And Jef Patat also seems to have left with the northern sun. The children, led by Urbanus, resolutely take charge of the resulting rubbish dump.

For the comic book lover, ‘Urbanus de Vuilnisheld’ is a feast of recognition. All characters pass by, such as the woman-mad Meneer Pastoor, classmate Fat Herman and Miss Pussy, whom Urbanus has a secret eye for. The story is also typically Urban: crazy and inimitable, but always entertaining. The theme of not polluting Mother Earth further is brought in pleasantly subtle. Nothing new under the sun so far. But how does ‘De Vuilnisheld’ compare as a film?

The animations in ‘Urbanus de Vuilnisheld’ are quite straightforward. Animated sprites for a still background. This simplicity suits the film well, because humor is paramount. And there is plenty of it, although there is a lot to be said about its quality. Due to the high content of poo and pee jokes, the film will not be for everyone. At the same time, it never really wants to get sick. There are some jokes about Miss Pussy’s breasts, but they are not visible. Just as they threaten to appear on the screen, they are cumbersomely disguised by another character.

The humor in ‘Urbanus de Vuilnisheld’ therefore stems mainly from the dialogue, not from the image. This is a fairly safe approach for an Urbanus film. As if the viewing guide has been more important than the content. Only the very youngest will get red ears from this. That feels like a loss somewhere. Because the real sharpness is lacking, ‘De Vuilnisheld’ ultimately has little added value above the comic. It is certainly entertaining, but afterwards everything is quickly forgotten.

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