Talking Movies: Mr Johnson, The River Runner and Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed

Spling reviews Mr Johnson, The River Runner and Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a coming-of-age romance comedy drama, a sports documentary and a celebrity documentary.

Starting off with a film on DStv Box Office…


A 76-year-old man tries to find an old flame after being in a coma for almost half a century.

Director: William Collinson

Stars: Paul Slabolepszy, Jana Cilliers and Graham Hopkins

– Starring typically comical actor Paul Slabolepszy as Mr Johnson, the film takes a sombre and contemplative view.
– Beautifully composed with fine cinematography from experienced director of photography turned director in Collinson, Mr Johnson has a poetic and haunting quality possibly inspired by the work of Italian director, Paulo Sorrentino.
– Much like This Must Be the Place, there’s an absurdist sense of humour at play as Mr Johnson tries to pick up the pieces having missed half his life and finding himself in an almost alien world.
– Straddling between comedy, drama and romance we get a tonally inconsistent film that tries to find the funny without losing emotional resonance.
– An ambitious undertaking, the focus centres on reaching out to old friends and flames rather than coming to terms with an extremely different South Africa.
– While a coma story of this nature would have received much more media coverage, the premise works best if you just roll with it.
– Mr Johnson does stick a few funny moments and has some emotional pay offs but never manages to reach its full potential.
– The flicker of inspiration and novelty helps compel the story and characters but it’s bogged down by inconsistency and naïve storytelling.
– A more nuanced and thoughtful screenplay with a stronger focus on drama would have been able to match the lofty treatment.
– While lightly entertaining, Mr Johnson’s indecisive tone and scattershot ambition diminish the overall impact offering glimpses of what could have been.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a documentary on Netflix…


A kayaker sets out to become the first man to paddle the four great rivers that flow from Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash.

Director: Rush Sturges

Features: Scott Lindgren, Aniol Serrasolses and Hendri Coetzee

– Starting with Lindgren’s life’s ambition to kayak the four great rivers diverging in cardinal directions from the Himalayas into Tibet, China, India and Pakistan, we rewind the story to his tough childhood.
– From being driftwood to adopting a laser focus on perfecting the art of kayaking, his passion for the sport turned into an unbreakable connection to the river.
– Capturing thousands of hours of footage over two decades, Sturges selects some of the most incredible moments to craft this compelling and visually-striking documentary.
– Pivoting on Lindgren, The River Runner harnesses elements of the surf video and rockumentary genres, creating a vivid and transportive backdrop for a powerful true Into the Wild style story about chasing down a dream.
– Pulsating world music captures much of the epic and spiritual element and supports the quick-paced edit of this jam-packed 86 minute documentary.
– Leaning into its stick-it-to-the-man attitude, Lindgren and his peers and pals don’t pull punches about the man’s drive and chip on the shoulder.
– The mesmerising film does become a bit scattershot in the second act as Sturges stirs up emotions fulfilling its rockumentary undertones with Lindgren’s hiatus, alienation and Kurt and Courtenay romance.
– Gripping in its storytelling, it draws an intimate character portrait and wanderlust out of a sport documentary that would typically be more distant.

It did just enough to get an excellent 8 on the splingometer!

And finally another documentary on Netflix…


Bob Ross, the world’s most famous art instructor, struggles to balance his love for art with the wants of his profit-driven business partners.

Director: Joshua Rofé

Features: Bob Ross, Steve Ross and Dana Jester

– Bob Ross is an iconic artist, whose long-running arts TV show The Joy of Painting inspired many would-be artists to paint.
– Known for his landscapes, the artist was able to create the most spectacular artworks in less than 30 minutes.
– While the documentary unpacks the nature of the man, his charm, warmth and inspiration, it also uncovers the darker side of his business partnership with the Kowalskis.
– Celebrating his art, his television show, his unmistakable hairstyle and grappling with family matters, we slowly get a clearer picture of how his name was leveraged to generate profits from art supplies, lessons and rights owned by Bob Ross Inc.
– Reiterating that many interviewees declined to be interviewed for fear of being tied down in legal proceedings, the impetus falls on his son Steve, his close friend Dana and his colleagues.
– Capturing landscapes that may have inspired the late artist, the documentary is largely composed of these interviews, clips from the shows, old photographs and artworks designed to dramatise scenes.
– It’s a revealing and bittersweet biographical portrait, which respectfully covers Ross’s celebrity, private life and influence lifting spirits in much the same way the man would have wanted.
– While a little bit repetitive and tarnished by bitterness, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed offers a rare peek into the beloved artist’s life and legacy.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

MR JOHNSON… this light, amusing and thought-provoking high concept comedy drama romance has sheen but is unwieldy, tonally inconsistent and naive… A flat 5!

THE RIVER RUNNER… a powerful true story, striking visuals, a stirring soundtrack and a quickfire edit compel this epic and jam-packed sports docudrama… An excellent 8!

BOB ROSS: HAPPY ACCIDENTS, BETRAYAL AND GREED… a long overdue and emotive signature tribute to a beloved celebrity artist is overshadowed by dodgy business dealings… A solid 7!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!