by Wilfred Okiche
After a couple of seasons producing and starring in the television comedy, AY’S crib and hot off the heels of a well-received supporting turn in Omoni Oboli’s romantic drama, Being Mrs Elliot, comedian AY has hit the silver screen big time with a producing and starring role in the dire but hugely entertaining gross out comedy, 30 Days in Atlanta.
As a stand up comic, whose primary job description is to entertain the audience, AY Makun has probably seen his best days and he is not just humble enough to realise this discretely, but blessed with the forward thinking capacity to evolve as a creative and as a genuine marketable property. His AY Live show has for over half of the past decade become the premier comedy show, easily packing audiences in and attracting top tier comic, music and movie talent.
No one does reinvention better than AY and so in reply to those who say he isn’t funny as a stand up act, AY packs his shows with some of the funniest people this side of Africa and saves some of his comic gold for the recorded skits that promote such shows.
In 30 Days in Atlanta, AY tries to balance a sketchy tripod comprising comedy, filmmaking and business but the scales tip generously towards the business. And the comedy.
There are those (and they may be in their numbers) who will be willing to swear that 30 Days in Atlanta is the most fun they have had at the movies in a while and if you manage to ignore all of the filmmaking errors and production glitches that leave their mark on this Robert Peters directed feature, and view the film through cataract afflicted lenses, you may see some reasons with them.
The film is laugh out loud funny and even the reserved cynics are going to crack a smile at some of the most outrageous scenes. AY wisely senses that he cannot carry the film on the basis of his name and charms alone and does the most sensible thing possible; fills the screen with some of the most credible actors around and gets them to explore their comic instincts.
Sharing top billing with AY is Nollywood king, Ramsey Nouah. Both of them play first cousins who stumble on the good life when a lucky encounter brings a change in fortunes their way and they are selected to spend an all expense paid 30 day vacation in Atlanta, USA.
AY has some ease and familiarity with the camera but he isn’t a rounded actor and he naturally sticks to playing to his strengths. There are no scenes of dramatic heft and his Akpors is played in broad strokes as the fish out of water local champion who is let lose in a different socialization. The clichés come as fast as they are funny. Akpors meets a spoilt American kid behaving badly, Akpors meets a duplicitous relation (Desmond Elliot) who is barely making ends meet, Akpors happens on a street dance competition and becomes a crowd favourite with his generic dance moves and when all else fails, Akpors reverts to doing stand-up comedy.
All these elements are somehow strung into the plot of the film which plays like a hybrid between Osuofia in London and The Return of Jenifa, in which there is no single, continuous plot but a series of sketches and happenstances cobbled together to make up a movie. AY thus vamps his way through the scenes, providing enough laughs to keep audiences invested in the characters’ antics.
Ramsey Nouah is the more strait laced of the duo and his job, apart from attracting the more traditional film goers is to provide a dramatic element as well as keep AY in check, lest he go overboard; the yin to AY’s yang if you may. He adopts a passable Warri accent and despite his discomfort in some scenes, plays his character with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face.
The roundup of supporting actors play routine Nollywood staples; an erratic-accented Mercy Johnson as the foil to Nouah’s true love (and green card aspirations), Rachel Oniga as the vaunted mother in the village, Ada Ameh as a loud country bumkin, Vivica Foxx (who seems to be getting work only in Nigerian films these days) as a balls busting wife and Richard Mofe-Damijo as an ageing father protecting his daughter from hawk eyed young men.
But it is the appearance of American actress, Lynn Whitfield as AY’s love interest that gives the film its warm heart. Where Ms Foxx is cold and wooden, Ms Whitfield is warm, reassuring and is the only one in the film who appears to be genuinely enjoying herself. Her smile is infectious and her vibrancy rubs off on her colleagues.
The pacing moves breezingly enough to obscure the lack of a substantial story but it does little to hide the deficiency with continuity as the scenes just clash noisily into the other. The jokes are gold though- failing unsurprisingly only when AY attempts stand up- but his Akpors will record a significant number of followers.
Being funny can get you noticed it seems, but comedy backed by dogged entrepreneurship and inspired timing can make all of the difference. Akpors rocks. And so does AY. Even when the rest of his film is a mess.
– The writer tweets from @drwill20