by Wilfred Okiche
Make a move, the new dance drama produced by season 5 Amstel Malta Box Office reality show champion Ivie Okujaiye starts to get it wrong from the poster. Prominently sporting a midriff-baring Okujaiye in full dance rehearsal ensemble, accompanied by background snap shots of the supporting cast members, the 2003 Hollywood film, Honey starring Jessica Alba immediately comes to mind.
Obviously inspired by Honey, Make a move’s copycatting does not end there. It goes on to lift major plot points from Alba’s film; the setting for instance, for both movies is an inner city environment, that is disadvantaged with precious little in terms of opportunities available for the thousands of children born here daily. Both films also pay homage to the art form of dancing and sport interesting cameo appearances by music heads. Where Missy Elliot appeared in Honey, Make a move has 2face Idibia and Omawumi.
Osas (Okujaiye) and her sister Eseosa live with their mother in a tiny apartment on the wrong side of town. Since the death of their father, mother has been shacking up with a shady fellow (Wale Adebayo) whose philandering ways are known to everybody else in the neighbourhood except the mother. As played by Tina Mba, Osas’ mum is an insecure woman who stands by idly and chooses to close her eyes to the abuse going on right under her nose. Osas thus has to play both protector and defender of her younger sister. Seeking release from the domestic abuse going on at home, she finds joy in dancing. While working as a cleaner in a dance studio, she does what only movie people do; abandons her mop and bucket and turns on the stereo to pour out her frustrations in the dance. Of course, she conveniently leaves the door unlocked so a tall, dark handsome stranger walks in on her and thus begins the Cinderella like story that you know is sure to happen.
At this point you can predict your way into the rest of the film and chances are any scenario you come up with next is probably, exactly what happens in the film. There are obstacles thrown at Osas’ path, like unfriendly dance partners, silly plot twists as well as the threat on the home front, but our heroine is spunky and determined to survive. Plus the whole film is an attempt at a feel good delight and soon a romance develops that survives all challenges and is just enough to solve most of her immediate problems.
Directed by Niyi Akinmolayan who made the critically and audience reviled Kajola in 2010, Make a move has a plot and story that manages to stay on course but the film is so dull and formulaic that almost nothing is exciting. The screenplay is mostly unchallenging and for its entire running time, the film plays like it is directed at 12 year olds. Every ingredient for your feel good film of the year is in this one. There is the hooker with a heart of gold who also happens to be the best friend, the male love interest with a halo around his head, the bad guy, the bad guy turned good guy, the predictable plot turns, the cringe-inducing dialogue, the uninspiring dance music, the pop music heavy soundtrack that hammers the audience into submission. There is also the added benefit of an improbable story arc involving Majid Michel and perhaps the worst celebrity cameos in film history starring Omawumi and 2face.
Make a move was never going to be a Tango with me like marvel of film-making but Okujaiye keeps getting in her own way with the production. The end result is cluttered and clumsy with awkward takes and uncomfortable moments. Akinmolayan just directs scene for scene by rote, bringing with him no particular excitement or even film experience. The dance numbers are boring at best and shoddy at worst. The scripting is heavy handed, so is the acting. Okujaiye is perhaps the most unsubtle actress to grace the screen since Uche Jombo patented the act. She doesn’t just recite her lines if she can scream them, letting her tiny but endowed frame do all the work that perhaps a single facial tic can manage. Every scene has to be amplified and the audience has to put up with a lot of shouting and screaming from her. Her love interest here is some dude named Enor Ekpeyong who was probably cast for his ability to bust some moves. Unconvincing in every single scene he appears in, he appears like he would rather be anywhere but in front of the camera. Someone should have saved everybody the discomfort. Tina Mba manages to overplay it and even Wale Adebayo is defeated by the broad strokes of his role. The child actor Helga Sosthenes does manage to put in some refreshing work in the midst of all the non-acting and overacting. The less said about miss Beverly Naya, the better.
Make a move has flashes of visual excitement- like when Okujaiye appears in a topless scene- but the bulk of the film falls flat. Audiences are urged to view it with a lot of patience and a body armour that will serve as protection from all the ridiculousness going on.