by Okon Ekpo
In 2014, comedian AY Makun hit box office pay dirt with 30 Days in Atlanta, a laugh a minute, jumbling clash of skits that despite its artistic limitations, connected with audiences in ways unheard of for a Nollywood film opening at the cineplexes and ended up crossing the previously unheard of 100 million dollar mark at the cinemas.
A sequel became imperative and two years later, viewers who still recall the fish out of water caper original with some measure of fondness have been punished for their fidelity by the unimpressive let down that is A Trip to Jamaica.
If you had any high hopes in the first place that is. Truth be told, the trailer that showed up to promote the film ahead of its release date was a clanging clutter of big names, choice locations and little else.
Robert O Peters returns to direct AY but everyone seems to be in it this time just for the big bucks. Peters has not improved much since his last outing and it shows on screen. The first 20 minutes are essentially a repeat of 30 Days in Atlanta’s opening scenes as AY’s Warri bred Akpos, accompanied by his latest conquest, Bose (Funke Akindele) take a trip to Atlanta after he has proposed to her publicly on state television. A seemingly simple scene that involves two actors strolling through airport security is handled by Roberts in a manner so lacking in imagination that it falls on the actors to sustain interest in the film.
Akpos and Bose are about as compatible as day and night. They fight every chance they get and the constant bickering between the two leads, which should have provided the movie with its major comic heft is tiresome and begins to get old after the first few tries.
The plot is paper thin and is at its heart, just an excuse for AY and his cast mates to frolick in the different locations that the movie is set in.
On arriving Atlanta, Akpos and Bose are hosted by Bose’s cousin (Nse Ikpe-Etim) and her shifty hubby (Dan Davies). Their union is not quite right but the screenplay (credited to AY and Diane Diaz) does not make the characters interesting enough for viewers to be bothered about the source of their discontent. Bose is interested though and Peters spends seemingly countless scenes on Bola’s attempts to get her cousin to open up. Cousin never opens up. Mostly because the film wants to stretch its running time and introduce a tinge of suspense to the proceedings.
Frankly we don’t care. Not for the domestic or professional troubles of Akpos’ hosts, nor for the slide show of dull supporting characters that barely register, neither do we care for the sub plot involving Eric Roberts (yes, Julia’s brother) hamming it up as if he were in a Mariah Carey video.
We came here strictly for the laughs. For Akpos and his propensity to talk himself in and out of trouble. And for Funke Akindele, one of Nollywood’s genuinely funny characters.
But A Trip to Jamaica has trouble coming up with the laughs. And that is the film’s biggest weakness. Technically, A Trip to Jamaica appears as some improvement from 30 Days’ glaring deficiencies. There are still sound issues but the picture quality and approach to continuity is a lot better this time around.
But story is everything and this film barely has one to hang on to. The screenplay is shoddy and unsure of itself and the stars are immediately stranded on the island of mediocre jokes and bad acting. You know things are dire when even Funke Akindele is struggling to be funny.
AY on his part prances around doing a lot of physical stunts but this is 2016 and no one is moved by a supposed funny man dancing and executing teenage level stunts. His acting still leaves much to be desired but even this would be forgivable if he had decent material to hide behind. He doesn’t.
Akindele is overacting most of the time and trying too hard to compensate for the film’s genuine lack of thrills. She shows deft comic timing in briefs and bursts but not near enough to justify her place on the ticket. Even the usually unbowed Nse Ikpe-Etim is defeated by the endlessly banal screenplay as she appears as if she were cast in an entirely different film.
Apart from AY, all of these actors have nothing interesting to do. Acting wise, 30 Days was salvaged by the presence of American actress Lynn Whitfield who kept things sizzling with a performance that had a mischievous wink to it. No one near charismatic enough is able to save A Trip to Jamaica. AY sinks and everyone else sinks with him.