by Okon Ekpo
The last time we saw the cute if unlikely couple, Mo and Tobenna, lead characters in the charming 2014 romantic comedy, When Love Happens directed by Seyi Babatope, they had finally realised what everyone else had figured long ago, that in their mutual search for true love, they themselves represented the only obstacle(s) standing in their path. The result was a happily ever after ending that pleased crowds and warmed hearts with equal aplomb.
Two years later and the sequel, When Love Happens Again returns Mo and Tobe as happily dating professional up and comers navigating the Lagos life. There is an elephant in the room so we’ll just get to it. While Weruche Opia returns as the plucky Mo, Gideon Okeke who was goofy and relatable as Tobe does not. Taking his place instead is Udoka Oyeka who plays Tobe as a more straight laced character. Jennifer, the Beverly Naya spoilt brat character (what other type is there?) from the first film also appears to have reincarnated into Diana Yekini.
Also returning are Oreka Godis and Enyinna Nwigwe, reprising their best-friend-to-the-star roles but this time, to more generous screen time. Everyone else is new.
Opia has fired her boss and is in business for herself as an event planner. For her very first solo gig, she is whisked off to the US of A by a client, Demilade Adenuga (Folajimi Akinsola), a billionaire son to help bring a Nigerian touch to one of his business dealings. A series of misleading messaging telegraphed back home, and amplified by blogs like BellaNaija later, and an insecure Tobe abandons his Sterling Bank job (we see the product placement y’all) and is trailing her across the pond, on the streets of Washington.
When Love Happens Again aims for something interesting in terms of the direction it chooses to take its characters, especially the leads. Unencumbered by tiny details such as exposition, the Seyi Babatope film takes it for granted that the audience is familiar with these characters already and dives straight into the action.
In this case, love does not quite happen again in the way that the title suggests. What obtains instead is that the lead characters, comfortable and maybe complacent in love are tested by the challenges of distance, time, insecurity and a client who may or may not want something more.
Set for the most part abroad, When Love Happens Again retains the glossy slickness of the original as it chronicles the middle/upper class Nigerians. The sets are bright, and shiny and the costumes and characters are easy on the eye. The ease with which the actors have familiarised themselves with the material is quite pretty to look at as they trade barbs and flirt with each other.
Oreka Godis, so underused in the first film is given some extra time to flesh out her character Tseju a bit more. She rises to the occasion and seems to be having the most fun dishing the occasional bon mot. Oyeka is the most assured he’s been on screen in a while as he does not enter into the trap of mimicking Okeke’s Tobe. Instead he straightens out the character’s kinks and plays him exactly his own way.
Opia’s Mo isn’t doing as much heavy lifting as she was in the original as the script, credited to Babatope and Temitope Bolade has decentralised the action a bit more such that the laughs arise from Nwigwe and Oyeka’s back and forth. Opia remains an appealing presence and her performance keeps the film on the straight and narrow even when the plot takes a detour into some uninteresting territory that involves new characters, Zainab (Marie-Humbert Droz) and JJ (an unimpressive Germaine Brooks).
The chemistry between the actors and the simple but witty lines of dialogue is the glue that holds things together, making up for a plot that continuously verges on the ridiculous. The series of coincidences introduced in the script are one to many and speak of an unwillingness to go beyond early drafts. Some minor sound issues crop up in places but the music, put together by Capital FEMI is pretty decent.
In the end, When Love Happens Again does not justify its existence but the gloss and feel good quality should cheer viewers up.