BY ANDREW OKE
Coming into this film, I had the lowest of expectations, which for anyone who was unfortunate enough to see Ayo Makun’s previous cinematic turn as Akpos in 30 Days in Atlanta, is completely understandable. I psyched myself up to see what I believed would be a lazy “comedy” that would play out more like a combination of humorous sketches than an actual film. but once the movie started, I ate my words as A Trip to Jamaica looked like it could really turn out to be not only better than its cinematic predecessor, but also a legitimately good film. However, my words were soon regurgitated when the film took a turn for the sigh-inducing, and became everything I expected it to be; a complete waste of my time.
The film begins with a marriage proposal. Akpos (Ayo Makun) gets on stage during a music concert and in front of the crowd, proposes to his girlfriend; Bola (Funke Akindele). To celebrate their forthcoming nuptials, they go on holiday to Atlanta and stay with Bola’s cousin, Abigail (Nse Ikpe Etim) and her extremely wealthy husband, Mike (Dan Davis). Unknown to them, Mike is a big time criminal and is on the run from a bigger one in Eric Roberts’ Sonny. To avoid facing the man that’s after him, Mike comes up with a plan to take some of the heat off his tail; he is going to take all of them to Jamaica on a relaxing holiday. How going to Jamaica helps his situation in anyway is beyond me, but at this point, I was still fully into the movie and my words were still very much swallowed.
It is not until they touchdown at Jamaica that everything begins to fall apart and all my expectations of this film come to fruition as the film quickly turns from one with actual narrative drive into an hour long episode of a sketch comedy series. We hop from one supposedly funny Akpos sketch to the next that are all so lazy, the film almost winks to cue the audience to laugh. It became so obvious that at some point, I honestly thought I would hear a laugh track, but thank heavens that didn’t happen. The film doesn’t get back on track until about fifteen minutes to the end when the film’s protagonist; Akpos is finally bundled up and thrown into the film’s story for the first time in a hundred and ten minute film.
The fact that this is what most have come to expect from Nigerian comedy films is rather disheartening. The formula for a comedy like this is; you put your peculiar/funny character (in this case Akpos) in a serious situation (the criminal underground) and watch all the craziness and hilarity unfurl before your eyes as said character uses his wackiness and various idiosyncrasies to get out of the situation. A Trip to Jamaica doesn’t take this prime opportunity to be comedy gold. It instead chooses to be a nearly two hour long Peak Milk/Glo/Jamaican tourism advertisement complete with otiose cameos from Patoranking et al and acting performances on a scale of bad to IK Ogbonna from everyone in the film except Funke Akindele.
Much like It’s Her Day (the other “big” comedy to hit Nigerian cinemas in recent times), A Trip to Jamaica is just another sketch comedy special disguised as an actual film. They even follow the same worrying pattern: Both star a hugely popular comedian who also wrote the films; both start out having a good premise and a lot of promise, but end up going from funny to flat-out stupid very quickly; and both rely on lazy sketches to produce humour instead of properly infusing the humour into their stories.
At various points while I watched this film’s, the VERY crowded cinema went dead silent except for the occasional sigh. One of such sighs came from the gentleman seated to my right. He complained about the film’s lack of forward momentum and engaging story and I empathized with him as I felt the exact same way. What he said next left me completely dispirited. He said “Anyhow sha. It’s comedy”
This is what comedy in Nollywood has devolved into: lazy, pointless messes with scenes slapped on with no purpose or care. This is what the comics are giving and the audience takes it like they are suffering from some twisted form of Stockholm Syndrome. This is what the Nigerian cinema going audience has come to expect and that is a great shame.
Perhaps the fault is with people like me.
Figures released to TNS this week by the films distributors suggest that A Trip to Jamaica made N80m from the box office in its first 10 days at the cinema.