There was a period between the late nineties and early aughts when Chico Ejiro was easily the most influential figure in all of Nollywood. Long before Tyler Perry would arrive with his brand of cheaper films catered to a specific audience, Chico Ejiro, supported by elder brother Zeb made home videos cheap and he made them fast. But for a broad film watching audience.
Did he make them well?
Pick one or two or five out of over eighty films made over a five-year period- he was labelled Mr Prolific for his efforts- and it is hard to register a particular touch or sensitivity that can be penciled down to Mr Ejiro. From star heavy dramas to epic historical films, comedies to thrillers, Ejiro attempted them all.
After suffering from burnout- probably undiagnosed- plus a collapse of the distribution system that favored Ejiro in his prime, he took some time off, returning this year with the unremarkable drama, Night bus to Lagos which no one asked for.
It is hard to see what the time away has done for Ejiro’s craft. If he has learnt anything new- or even unlearned some of his old ways- it doesn’t show in Night bus to Lagos, an overlong unfunny ensemble comedy that has absolutely nothing new to offer.
There are a host of characters involved in the needlessly busy plot of Night bus to Lagos but none of them is endearing or even the least bit interesting.
Blame it on the incredibly tepid screenplay credited to Stanley Isokho which relies solely on plot and the strength of its actors to keep things movie along. Matter of fact, the entire film relies on these two ingredients as Ejiro’s technical capacity is lacking and his role appears to be that of an assembler, putting frames together to make a coherent whole.
His picture is dull, unforgivably so and what little attention was paid to designing the production is grossly ineffective as the entire picture gives off a haunting, sickly feeling. The sound is incredibly tacky and Ejiro’s pacing is lethal enough to send you straight to sleep.
Ese (Omawumi, about the only saving grace in this time-consuming affair) takes the night bus from Warri to Lagos when she hears that her spineless boyfriend Voke (Bolanle Ninalowo)- whom she supported to travel abroad for his Masters degree by selling off all of her inheritance- has been back for sometime now.
The plan was that Voke would return to do right by Ese who has been looking after their child with zero support from him whatsoever all the while he was away.
Instead of meeting up with his responsibilities, the fickle Voke returns, jobless and entitled and leeches off his supremely boring friends (Eddie Watson, Daniel Lloyd) while aspiring to the kind of lifestyle he isn’t prepared to work for. All of this drama takes its sweet time playing out though as Ejiro and his screenwriter run around in circles meandering from one set up to the other.
Because of this, we come in contact with Monalisa Chinda’s Lala (a Toke Makinwa-type OAP ditsy enough to say yes to a wedding proposal after a first date), her preferably unnamed (really there is no point) best friend played by Ebube Nwagbo who only exists to listen to her more interesting friend’s silly love life, Mira (Lisa Omorodion), a dumb heiress ripe for the killing and a thoroughly bored Pete Edochie playing yet another father. All of these actors phone their performances in- a blame that cannot be ascribed to them considering the banality of the screenplay- and Mr Ejiro is none the wiser.
So much for being Mr Prolific.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.