By Esosa Omo-Usoh
Months before its theatrical release, I had seen the official trailer of The Wedding Party during previews at the cinema. While it promised a few laughs, there was something decidedly Nollywood-ish about it even though it came across as trying too hard to break away from the usual fare served up by Nollywood; a post-Nollywood pretention, if you will.
As a rule, I typically don’t watch Nollywood movies at the cinema. Aside the fact that Nollywood movies usually end up being such disappointments (no matter how hyped they are), there is something about these movies that just seem out of place in a movie theatre. In trailers of Nollywood movies I have seen during previews, I always get the feeling that an African Magic movie on cable television has been projected onto the big screen.
Since seeing Dr. Strange in November, there has been no Hollywood theatrical release that has been worth seeing. Underworld : Blood Wars was such a joke that not even the sight of Kate Beckinsale in tight leather could redeem it. Rogue one: A Star Wars Story, despite the spectacular battle scenes, was just there except if you are a die-hard Star Wars fan. I am more of a Star Trek fan.
Bored out of my mind and against my better judgment, I decided to see The Wedding Party.
The storyline was pretty much your usual Nollywood fare; it’s a high society wedding bringing together two affluent families; the Bride’s family is Yoruba and the Groom’s is Igbo. Thankfully, tribalism is not at the root of the seeming bad blood between the matriarchs of both families. It appears to be more of one perceiving the other as being too unpolished to be in their league. A prejudice clearly not shared by the patriarchs of both families.
The movie starts out on the wedding day itself with the Groom and his Groom’s men getting set for the wedding despite a potentially disastrous news of the best man having been in an accident that left him incapacitated post the debauchery of the bachelor’s eve. He’s quickly replaced by another disaster-in-waiting as best man.
On the Bride’s side, the bridal train introduce her to the nitty -gritty of marital naughtiness in the form of sexy lingerie whilst her overbearing mum threatens to ruin her special day with a last-minute change of caterer.
As the movie introduces us to its storyline, it holds up promises of an interesting take on a fairly common Nollywood movie theme. But soon enough, it loses its grip and descends into silliness, cheap laughs and pointless gags.
First off, it populates its cast with a roll call of popular faces that could pass for a veritable all-star cast. From the parents of the bride and groom, to the wedding couple and right down to bit players and cameos. This almost suggested that the movie was banking on being sold more on its stellar cast than on the brilliance of its treatment of its subject theme.
Casting wise, the movie made some poor choices. Alibaba was clearly miscast as Chief Coker. Sure, he managed one or two laughs but his entire schtick appeared to have lost sight of the fact that Chief Coker was billed as an oil magnate and not a clownish uncle. And there was also the fact that he seemed relatively too young to be Sola Sobowale’s husband except if she was meant to be portrayed as a cougar Island mama which wasn’t quite the case in the movie.
Richard Mofe-Damijo, as Chief Onwuka, was also a miscast. But his was more in the sense that he wasn’t convincing as the wealthy Igbo father of the Groom. His chant of “Igbo kwenu” at the wedding reception was as unconvincing of a supposed titled Igbo chief as Alibaba’s clownish act was unconvincing of a wealthy Yoruba oil magnate. Kanayo O. Kanayo would have been more convincing had he been cast as Chief Onwuka.
The movie also suffered from the curse of over acting. Even though she gave one of the better performances in the movie, Sola Sobowale gave a sometimes over the top performance that just detracted from the brilliance of her talent.
Another culprit of over acting was Zainab Balogun. Her wedding planner character drew more than a passing inspiration from similar stereotyped roles in Hollywood movies. Then she cranked it up to a level that just came across as over-acting. She did provide redemption for her craft though in the scene when she came off her high horse and put-on accent and went on her knees to beg Iya Michael to stay on and cater to the guests at the wedding reception. That scene was as beautiful and hilarious as it was forgiving for her over acting in other scenes.
But by far, the best performance in the movie was Iretiola Doyle as Mrs . Obianuju Onwuka. This was a role that Iretiola Doyle was born to play, and if truth be told; it’s pretty much the role she plays in most of her movies. I don’t think there is any actress who could play the snobbish ice-queen schtick better than Iretiola Doyle in all of Nollywood. She kept her performance mellow, measured, controlled and especially and thankfully devoid of the over acting that characterised this movie.
As is wont in Nollywood movies, there were moments of incongruity in this movie, pointless gags and scenes that just beggared belief. Mrs. Onwuka’s snobbish preference for a continental menu at the reception suggested her guests were going to be the uppity elitist types. But there was nothing in the eventual guests at the reception to fulfill this expectation. If anything, the guests were the very type that would and did favour the very type of local menu she turned up her nose at.
The scene where AY introduced a garishly dressed pastor to lead the guests in an outlandish prayer session suggested that scene was more of a filler for cheap laughs than anything else. This is more so as the pastor was supposedly delivering the opening prayer long after guests had started eating.
Saka’s role was another one that was more for cheap laughs than anything else. His over acting and the contrived pretences of the two kids that accompanied him detracted from the movie and questioned his and their inclusion in the cast.
Another scene that just beggared belief and which came across as such a cop out was the one where the Groom, his best man, his parents and his in-laws were held up by a thieving gunman who had infiltrated the wedding reception. The thief’s attempt at a sanctimonious justification of his criminality was such a cop out as was the group therapy schtick the families pulled whilst being held hostage .
The Wedding Party tried hard, perhaps too hard, to deliver a fresh take on a popular theme in Nollywood. But like the pretensions of the Cokers and the Onwukas in the movie, it falls flat on its face. Sure, it manages to achieve a few laughs whilst descending into silliness but it’s the kind of laughter Nigerian comedy achieves; one that proceeds more from oafish silliness than comic brilliance.