BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
2017 is undoubtedly Kunle Idowu aka Frank Donga’s year. Being the leading man in two cinema films within a space of three months is no small feat. With these films, he makes a statement that he is more than a pink shirt, an awkward tie and funny grammar, especially since one of them, his role as Hakkunde, isn’t even a comic role. While his mannerisms in the films haven’t been exactly diverse, there is great potential and I am totally here for it as a fan and supporter of his work. This is probably why I went into the cinema in hope, despite already been beaten by many a comedy film.
Mentally, a film written, produced and directed by James Abinibi tells the story of Akin who decides to move to Lagos from his hometown to hustle. He has been promised accommodation by his old friend from polytechnic, Emeka, who is also ‘hustling’. His mother warns him to be careful, because she senses danger looming, and he tells her he would be.
Amidst the regular Lagos encounters when coming by public transport, he finally meets Emeka who takes him to get lunch and then to meet up with some other friends. At this meet up, he is persuaded to take a drag on weed which leads him into a place he doesn’t bargain for among strange people who speak an incomprehensible language.
The general idea is to be funny, which is why the story comes across as being paid very little mind. However, the humor is stretched too long in the restaurant and with Emeka’s friends, and the repetition of “mentally” more than twice steps on an obviousness-repellant nerve. The scene feels like a means to while away time, and the characters seem to adlib rowdily throughout, making it look like an Instagram skit.
The transition to the Mukunu village through the show of running feet gets the movie brighter; however, it takes an eternity to switch from scene to scene. Finally, the movie picks up momentum when three men go out to hunt and plot against Akin. It is remarkably creative how the subtitling disappears and the men, one of which is a jealous favorite hunter to the village king, talk about how they must have offended their god Jingo to have seized subtitles. This is when you realise it isn’t meant to be serious at all.
Mentally has snatches of brilliance from time to time, especially with Akin’s theatrics, Emeka’s easygoingness, Adekunle Gold’s bus conductor bit and Yaw’s one-liners as a bus driver. Woli Arole also makes a cameo as a fake pastor, and Kunle Afod is crazy hilarious as Ariba’s right-hand man. The “if I could find my way home” soundtrack is timely and an absolute beauty.
Predictably, Mentally ends with Akin’s mother being right (there had to be a reason she kept insisting at the beginning of the movie, “remember the son of whom you are” style). The narcotic peddlers lure Akin in, but he escapes by the skin of his teeth. The movie also features Soma Ayanma of Big Brother Naija, Comedian Senator, Toyin Aimakhu Abraham, Abayomi Alvin, Eric Didier, Chris Okagbue, Rotimi Salami, Sukanmi Omobolanle and Jude Chukwuka as Ariba, the village king.
Mentally fulfils its promise to be funny, and not much else.