Recently, there has been an inclination to rehash the well-known titles of older films to name new ones, often altering them just slightly to supposedly comic effect. The new Al-Baad La Yadhhab Lel Maazoun Maratein (Some People Don’t Revisit the Marriage Officiant), for example, starring Karim Abdel-Aziz and Dina Al-Sherbeini, directed by Ahmed Al-Gendi, is named after the 1978 production Al-Baad Yadhhab Lel Maazoun Maratein (Some Visit the Marriage Officiant Twice), directed by Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, featuring Adel-Imam, Mervat Amin, Lebleba, Samir Ghanem and George Sidhom. Likewise comedian Mohamed Heneidy’s latest. It is called Al-Ens Wal Nems (Humans and the Mongoose) – after Al-Ens Wal Jinn (Humans and Djinn, 1985), directed by Mohamed Radi and starring Adel Imam and Youssra.
Heneidy has not appeared on the silver screen since his 2017 Antaar Ibn Ibn Ibn Ibn Shaddad, directed by Sherif Ismail, and featuring Dorra, Lotfi Labib and Bassem Samra. The new film is written and directed by Sherif Arafa and stars Menna Shalabi, Amr Abdel-Geleil, Bayoumi Fouad, Sabrine and Sherif Al-Dessouki. It is the story of Tahseen (Heneidy) who lives with his mother and sister and he works as a horror house employee at the funfair. One day he has an accident that turns his life upside down when he meets Narmine (Menna Shalabi) and falls in love with her. He heads to her family to ask for her hand only to discover that she is in fact the daughter of a partisan djinn family. A mongoose portrait even escapes the canvas and chases Tahseen round the house. Headed by Narmine’s mother Sabrine, the djinn are nonetheless keen on bringing a human in, so they do not reveal their true identity to Tahseen.
In this and other respects, mixing comedy and fantasy, the screenplay makes no sense, however, and the film ends up being a rather deflating experience.
Heneidy was part of a new wave of comedy in the late 1990s when his remarkable appearance in Ismailia Rayeh Gai (Return Ticket to Ismailia, 1997), was followed by the huge hit Saedi fil Gamaa Al-Amrekiya (An Upper Egyptian in the American University, 1998), directed by Said Hamed, and featuring Mona Zaki, Ahmed Al-Saqqa, Tarek Lotfi and Hani Ramzi. A whole new generation of stars, especially comedians, were breathing life into a scene that had been tired since the 1970s. The included Ahmed Al-Saqqa (action), Mona Zaki (drama), Ahmed Helmy, Mohamed Saad and the late Alaa Wali Al-Deen (comedy). One of the highlights of this time was Al-Nazer (The Principal), directed by Sherif Arafa, and featuring, along with Wali Al-Deen, Mohamed Saad in his debut (as Al-Lembi) and Ahmed Helmy, as well as Hisham Selim, Bassma and Hassan Hosni. It introduced the character of Al-Lembi, which Mohamed Saad later turned into a string of movies starting with Al-Lembi.
As an investment in the great success of Saedi fil Gamaa Al-Amrekiya, Heneidy collaborated again with filmmaker Said Hamed on Hammam fi Amsterdam (Hammam in Amsterdam, 1999), featuring Ahmed Al-Saqqa, Ahmed Eid, Tarek Abdel-Aziz, Monaliza and Rehab Al-Gamal. With Wali Al-Deen, he had appeared briefly opposite Imam in Bekheit wi Adila (Bekhiet and Adila, 1995), directed by Nader Galal and starring Sherine, Ahmed Rateb, Mustafa Metwalli and Youssef Dawoud. He played a tiny role as a taxi driver, but his distinct sense of humour and powerful performance drew attention.
After Hammam fi Amsterdam, Heneidy became a box-office star, delivering no end of films – Belia wi Demagho Al-Alia (High Belia, 2000), directed by Nader Galal, Gaana Al-Bayan Al-Talli (Breaking News, 2001), directed by Said Hamed, Askar fil Moaskar (Askar in the Camp, 2003), directed by Mohamed Yassin, Saheb Sahbo (A Loyal Friend, 2002), directed by Said Hamed, Ful Al-Sein Al-Azim (The Great Chinese Beans, 2004), directed by Sherif Arafa, Ya Ana Ya Khalti (Either Me or My Aunt, 2005), directed by Said Hamed, Wesh Egram (Born to be a Criminal, 2006), directed by Wael Ihsan – which, starting with Andalib Al-Dokki (The Nightingale of Dokki, 2007), directed by Wael Ihsan, began to go downhill or seem simply repetitive.
There have been Ramadan Mabrouk Aboul Alamain Hamouda (2008), directed by Wael Ihsan, Amir Al-Behar (Prince of the Sea, 2009), directed by Wael Ihsan, Youm Maloush Lazma (An Unnecessary Day, 2015), directed by Ahmed Al-Gendi, among others.
Heneidy also appeared as guest of honor in Hamed’s film Racha Gariaa (A Generous Gesture, 2001), starring alongside Ashraf Abdel-Baki and Yasmine Abdel-Aziz. But at no previous time has his work felt less remarkable.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly