by Wilfred Okiche
The trailer seemed tacky. The premise, instantly unoriginal, and laughably desperate, spoke of one of the oldest tricks in comedy. Three pathetic old geezers, robbed of their hunger for the good time by the sobering realities of real life, embarking on one last hurrah. Mr Ibu would be gold in this. Perhaps Nkem Owoh. Or Chinwetalu Agu if you can get him.
The producer of Three Wise Men, Opa Williams, an industry titan and godfather if ever there was one, fancies a more prestigious picture, one that will drag people out of their homes, and into the cinemas. So he does something interesting. Williams casts the lovable and relatively mainstream trio of Richard Mofe-Damijo, Zachee Orji and Victor Olaotan as the long suffering, old time revellers who get a new lease of life when they are finally awarded their gratuities.
Each man becomes the recipient of 30million Naira and for them, old age must come with urge incontinence, the kind that makes them want to blow every last Naira on booze, bimbos and hare brained schemes.
The women in their lives are there to either aid or talk them out of this sudden wealth induced dementia. Timi (Zack Orji) is married to a prayer warrior (Tina Mba) who despite her energetic supplications fails to keep her hubby on the straight and righteous path. Ebele Okaro is endlessly devoted to her Tobore (Olaotan) but even her righteous love is not enough to stop him from straying, especially when the de facto leader of the threesome, Irikefe (Mofe-Damijo) makes quite the convincing case with his care free lifestyle. As the smooth operator and convener of this merry band of brothers, Mofe-Damijo is clearly having the time of his life in the name of work.
Irikefe has resigned to a lifetime of pleasure seeking after suffering three failed marriages and sweet talks his more straight leaning colleagues to join him in his debauchery. Three Wise Men is an often funny and mostly annoying chronicle of their antics. They hook up with girls young enough to call them daddy and transfer all their retirement energies to expectedly disastrous results.
Directed in a by the numbers manner by Patience Oghre, best known for her work on television’s Dear Mama, Three Wise Men is an unholy pastiche of several not so funny scenes. It plays like a nineties Nollywood movie what with its cast and leaden story. The movie’s only saving grace is the commitment of the leading men and the opportunity to view respected actors make fools of themselves.
But acting commitment alone never was enough to sell a movie. And even in this case, this simple pleasure falls short repeatedly. Ebele Okaro and Tina Mba, though fine character actresses, are just sitting idle and doing things that films expect women to do; which is nag, pray and cry. They fail to move the plot along or have any real reason for being there.
Zachee Orji is his usual stolid self, showing little in terms of genuine emotion and Victor Olaotan is miscast as an everyman type. He’s probably gotten so comfortable playing patriarch Ade Williams on Tinsel that the chance of going against type which Three Wise Men presented must have appealed to the actor in him. Still, Olaotan does not quite settle into the role and is uncomfortable especially when his lines are being delivered in Pidgin English.
This leaves Richard Mofe Damijo with the responsibility of carrying the entire film. Naturally too, as he is the genuine movie star of the bunch and his charisma has seen him through reams of unimpressive tapes. He comes through here, even when he appears to be overdoing it. The plot is nonsensical really but as the tattoo sporting, Instagram posting, alcohol guzzling Niger Delta senior citizen whose children are about to stage a major rebelling, Mofe-Damijo manages to keep viewers seated through the entire proceedings.
What he does not and cannot do however (indeed no human can) is save the film from an outrageous final ten minutes, so out of pace, devoid of context and tackily joined to the final cut. It is a wonder how anyone with any power okayed that ending and Oghre loses points for even considering that a deeming end for her film. This one makes the curious ending of Kunle Afolayan’s The CEO seem perfectly reasonable and leaves a black mark on the entire Nollywood culture.
After running out of steam going around in circles, the movie goes out with a hiss as it suffers a tonal, shift by going the lazy, senseless route of incorporating religious themes and preachy resolutions. Picture and sound are fine but this outing is such an unimpressive one for Patience Oghre, an actress who graced the screens about a decade ago on the soap Candle light before building a durable career behind the scenes. Three Wise Men suggests maybe, she should stick to television.