by Wilfred Okiche
The last time Emem Isong and Desmond Elliott gathered top draw Nollywood screen talent for a seemingly big-budget spectacle was in 2009’s ‘Reloaded’- that shrill, histrionic female empowerment ad campaign masquerading as a blockbuster.
Fast forward to 2013 and the Nollywood dynamic hasn’t changed much. Ramsey Noah, Ini Edo and Monalisa Chinda remain at the top of the A-list pile so it makes perfect sense that they would be invited for another star studded get together. Alongside Genevieve Nnaji, the ‘Reloaded’ threesome headline the long anticipated ‘Weekend getaway.’
But something else has happened these past few years. Uti Nwachukwu has managed to convince producers- if not audiences- that he is the next great leading man. Ditto Alex Ekubo in the supporting category. Ime Bishop Umoh has become one of the funniest men in film and Beverly Naya is a name you just cannot seem to escape. These young guns are considered faces (and names) of the future and are hence co-opted to light up the screen alongside the heavyweights.
A troupe of incredibly good looking and fabulously dressed people descend on the tropical paradise that is the Le Meridien Ibom Hotel & Golf resort for different reasons. A bored bachelor arrives to hook up with a contact he’s been chatting up online (because that is what bored, wealthy people do.) Said contact arrives but with other ideas on her mind; scoring the perfect heist being chief of them. She soon hooks up with some random dude who turns out to be on her tail but pauses to set bored bachelor up with a hotel cleaner whom she convinces to impersonate her. Confused? Don’t be.
There is also the cougar who brings along her caddish boy toy on a business meeting, the newlyweds trying to inject some spark into their marriage, the executive on assignment with his deceptively hot assistant who has unrequited love oozing out of her every pore; obvious to everyone else except of course the object of her affection. Their lives intersect as the varying plot lines meet and touch on each other before culminating in the frustratingly underwhelming climax.
It is not a film that will win awards for it’s quality of narration but the premise is admittedly interesting. It coasts along mostly on the charms of the stars but even they can only do so much considering the little available to work with. The screenplay has it’s brief moments of respite but it is mostly inane, generic stuff. The dialogue is predictable some times, cheesy at others and could have done with tighter editing most of the time. Plot twists do not really come till the very end and even that is a fiasco of head scratching moments and bad acting. Most of the film is just talk, Le Meridien Ibom ad placements, Blackberry fiddling and more talk. Little thrills
There are the glaring missteps too. Like how Ini Edo’s character is a cleaner working downstairs but her nails are perfectly manicured, there is also her colleagues with the overly sympathetic pity faces and gestures typical of Nollywood.
The casting works at times but not with the uninspired pairing of Genevieve Nnaji and Uti Nwachukwu. Their innuendo-heavy flirting is so off-kilter mostly because Nwachukwu just appears as a wooden board incapable of doing anything with all the smoulder Ms Nnaji throws his way. Which is not saying she is to be let off the hook though. Her Catherine-Zeta Jones (Entrapment) inspired pilfering siren is a tad undercooked and she could have used a little more time getting completely into character. Plus the clumsy stunts do not exactly give her much credibility. Ramsey Noauh is normally dependable but he has so little to do here that it seems he just accepted the role for the money, or relationship. Probably both.
Monalisa Chinda could have had a better outing but every time she does something good, she goes on to negate it with some over the top acting or ridiculously cheesy lines. Alex Ekubo as her Don Juan companion gives a decent account of himself and shows some excellent comic timing even when he essentially had to keep repeating the same scenes. Someone should have just filmed a lovemaking scene with he and Ms Chinda instead of all that talk. The hottie, Uru Eke who plays Mr Nouah’s love interest makes for some refreshing alternative and Bishop Ime Umoh shows up to steal the film from his more established co-stars. He is easily the best thing in the film by a long mile.
Lighting wasn’t so bad, ditto sound but the film’s greatest undoing was the screenplay. All over the place and not nearly as intelligent- or coherent as it could have been. It makes an attempt, granted but just doesn’t fly. It’s cinematic influences are blatant- from ‘Entrapment’ to ‘Maid in Manhattan’’- plus a line we could have sworn came from Labyrinth’s ‘Beneath your beautiful’. A more gifted director could have avoided some of the obvious pitfalls.
The Le Meriden, Ibom competes for shine time with the stars and easily upstages them too as the beautiful scenery just serenades viewers into submission.
The fact that it is possible for this type of film to get made suggests some forward motion in the home grown film industry but ‘Weekend getaway’ is definitely too weak to be considered a game changer. It is fluff, easy on the eyes but never quite lifts off the ground.
The writer tweets from @drwill20