Movie: The Wedding Party
Director: Kemi Adetiba
Screenplay: Tosin Otudeko and Kemi Adetiba
Executive Producers: Mo Abudu, Moses Babatope, Chris Jeyibo, Chinazo Onuzo
Production Companies: Ebonylife Films, FilmOne, Inkblot Production, Koga Studios
For those observing the new wave of Nollywood films, it is clear that the reins of the industry are summarily out of the control of the ‘Up Iweka’ shot-callers. Every year, there are beautifully shot, artfully rendered and well-scripted movies that shift significant numbers at our Box Office, and even if these films are not in the majority, the build-up is assured.
The Wedding Party belongs to this league of films. It is yet another Mo Abudu production and, like Fifty, it centres on family and wedding intrigues. The Nigerian wedding is perhaps one of our biggest heritages. Instead of staying firmly fixed in its inclination, Nigerian weddings continue to evolve according to the dictates of consumerism.
This film follows the wedding of Dozie Onwuka (Banky W), son of rich Igbo chief and businessman (gracefully played by Richard Mofe Damijo), and Dunni Bamidele (Adesuwa Etomi), daughter of an oil magnate Bamidele Coker (Alibaba). Dozie Onwuka is a playboy who finally found love and has opted to retire into Dunni Bamidele’s arms, but not without a fight from a past that left a retinue of scorned exes. Dunni is the giddy bride wrestling for the spotlight of her big day with her disgruntled mother-in-law, Lady Obianuju Onwuka (Ireti Doyle) and an overbearing Yoruba mother, Tinuade Coker (Sola Sobowale).
This Kemi Adetiba debut at feature film directing is star-studded with veteran actors like the aforementioned and some other rising stars. Comics like Harrison (Frank Dunga) were not left out, playing chauffeur for the bridal car while dressed in red like an imbecile gangster; dizzying wedding planner, Wonu (Zainab Balogun) and a cameo appearance by Saka.
The movie is sustained by multiple conflicts. It obeys Murphy’s Law, which summarily states that everything that can go wrong, will. The bride becomes a runaway bride. The wedding planner, Wonu, carries the weight of her office with an untamable zeal to impress her client. Played impressively by Zainab Balogun, she embodies the anxieties of a typical wedding planner, throwing her restiveness everywhere in a slapstick performance. She knows anything can go wrong at a Nigerian wedding and someone’s got to take the blame. Disasters are as possible as in their ridiculousness – the food could get to the reception late, uncouth words could escape from an overzealous relative, a wayward fart could escape from an in-law’s bowel etc. So, everyone, at least, the self-respecting ones, are conditioned to be on their best behaviour – from a couple cleverly hiding their anxieties under a well-rehearsed demeanor, to parents ensuring prayers offered to God are not collecting dust in the Almighty’s voicemail, to friends and family maintaining their best furtive countenances, and wedding vendors that steel themselves against embarrassments that dent corporate reputations. The last part happens in the movie – the edible catering of Iya Michael is exhausted before guests were pacified with the appearance of “small chops”. This part is best enjoyed when you watch the movie.
The movie, following its reinforcement of cultural stereotypes – which are in abundance, intimates on culture gaffes and clashes.
The movie does not aim for cerebral validation. And one should be kind to its shortcomings. It falters along a few lines. There is a rather unnecessary close-up shot of an ex’s lips, the overwrought aerial shots of Lagos, the significance of a petty thief that staged a hijack – and most curiously – the overstretched involvement in the wedding by Chief Felix Onwuka’s side chic. Even if we forgive the movie’s slapstick quality, comedy, as we know it, is a serious business and should be handled as such, more so – the Nigerian wedding! – a cultural asset that doubles as one of the few vehicles that exhibit Nigerians in their true emotional and social colours. The film’s production team could have done more to treat this Nigerian asset with more artistic reverence and attention, without losing its playfulness. (After all, Hollywood uses wedding to poke at the silliness of American family and communality, sometimes done to the extremes of stupidity but the viewer, based on production and storytelling quality, is held to a suspension of disbelief that makes the ridiculous believable. It’s the same way talented stand-up comics still make us reel in laughter even with deadpan and ridiculous materials).
On characterisation. The movie parades an ensemble of household actors and pop celebrities. There’s enough allure to go round, which expectedly lends the movie to much media hype. On parade are the charm and magnetism of Banky W blending with the cherubic beauty of Adesuwa Etomi, herself the current most sought-after lead lady of the Nigerian screen. Veteran actress, Sola Sobowale plays the archetypal Yoruba socialite mum. She’s introduced as a melodramatic mother obsessed with media profiling. With Sola Sobowale, every performance is a class act. Her theatrics are the stuff of social media memes. Let’s not discuss her dance steps and her contempt for her in-law, Lady Obianuju Onwuka (Iretiola Doyle). A question beckons, despite Alibaba’s admirable performance… Could an actor that can modulate the gracefulness of age with the gaffes of age have played Alibaba’s character better? Say, Jide Kosoko?
The movie, following its reinforcement of cultural stereotypes – which are in abundance, intimates on culture gaffes and clashes. The Yoruba mother, trying to impress her new Igbo in-laws, entertains them with a cultural dance from a different ethnic group because, yeah, in Nigeria, there’s a provincialism that lumps all things eastern as same. Same as other geopolitical zones. The Onwukas, Igbos, are affiliated to business. The Cokers, Yorubas, are party-heads. Igbos and business, Yorubas and owanbe – familiar projectiles of stereotypes.
As expected, all is well that ends well, spoiler alert – the conflicts are resolved, and the couple lived happily ever after. We almost gave the film full marks but for the few slips it suffers. (One still wonders what kind of church allows the couple to be the last to leave after the solemnization of matrimony).
Kudos to the crew. As at the time of writing this review, the movie is reported to have broken Nigeria’s box office record. It’s easy to know why. It’s backed by Mo Abudu’s production machine, it’s about owambe, it’s funny, there are widely loved celebrities, and it’s a Christmas release.
Kudos too, to the new Nollywood.