What do men want?
What do women want?
These two, seemingly innocuous questions have bothered the great thinkers for the longest of times. Unfortunately, not one of them has been able to come up with satisfactory answers.
In Disguise, the latest embarrassment to come out of the Desmond Elliot factory of third rate products, Theophilus Vaughn, a bored, wealthy patron played disinterestedly (as he should be) by Wale Ojo, is tormented by these life questions. To the extent that he gathers pairs of young writers, accommodates them in a pretty resort and charges them to pitch him ideas on how to go about finding answers.
Mr Vaughn settles on the duo of Nengi and Lambo, played by Nancy Isime and IK Ogbonna and their winning pitch is to switch gender roles so as to literally walk some miles in the other’s shoes. He commissions them to go undercover in a University for a period of time to glean as much as they can. For their efforts, they get 10 million Naira each once their unscientific research process is completed.
As movie premises go, this isn’t the brightest bulb in the room. But it isn’t the worst either. Execution is usually the key to unlocking which way in terms of quality that the pendulum is likely to swing, and more often than not, the team behind the project is likely to foretell what is to come.
Agatha Amatha, television darling and media mogul, is credited as producer here; joining her is Victor Okpala. Having worked on titles such as The Widow and The Addict, Amatha brings in some kind of pedigree that could make film goers take a second look at the product. Doing everything possible to neutralize all of that hard earned good will, is the director, Honorable Desmond Elliot whose day job these days, is representing the good people of Surulere 1 constituency at the Lagos state House of Assembly.
To be fair, it isn’t entirely Mr Elliot’s fault that Disguise is so bad. The screenplay, written by Patrick K. Nnamani, is lifeless, poses an existential question that it has no capacity to even wrestle with on any level that can be taken seriously. Not surprisingly Disguise reverts to plucking low hanging fruits that nestle in the most clichéd of movie tropes. Like how men respond to what they see, and women react to words. Men are randy dogs, women are cut from more virtuous material. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at this point, wait till you actually see Disguise.
A potentially interesting subplot involving Daniel K. Daniel and Toyin Abraham- FilmOne is distributing after all- as a warring couple, for the briefest of moments seems poised to add some insight to the drab proceedings but bad acting, especially from Ms Abraham who begins to ham it up the minute she shows up, gets in the way.
Disguise is so erratic, it is hard to place what it exactly wants to achieve. It jumps up and down unremarkably like a yo-yo, moving from comedy to drama and then to faux reality tv. None of it works. The film requires superhuman levels of patience to be able to get through, all the way to the convoluted, senseless, not to mention, boring ending. The only thing genuinely decent about the film is Onilogbo Hakeem’s fetching make up work.
Nancy Isime and IK Ogbonna have some chemistry and both look like a better script would have served them well, but this is the kind of film that can torpedo thriving careers. You could cast Genevieve Nnaji and Richard Mofe Damijo and they still would not emerge with reputations intact.
Desmond Elliot flits in and out pointlessly, doing nothing exactly. The less popular actors who play supporting roles get screen time alright but they are all so bad, it is hard to see what Disguise can do for them in the future. But they are the lucky ones. Limited screen time means they can distance themselves from the project in ways that Isime and Ogbonna may not be able to manage
What do men want?
What do women want?
The king of psychoanalysis himself, Sigmund Freud was till his death, unable to crack at least one of those questions. If we look to a Nollywood movie, expecting Desmond Elliot and Agatha Amatha to provide answers where Freud has failed, then maybe Disguise is the film that we deserve.
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.