In Moms at War, the latest collaboration between FilmOne and inkblot productions, box office magnet Omoni Oboli rejoins the team, this time actively involved both on screen and behind the scenes. Not content with her leading lady duties in last year’s lukewarm, My Wife & I, Oboli has for the first time in her career, stepped up to helm a project she didn’t write herself. This decision it seems, makes all the difference.
Moms at War is a refreshing upgrade from everything Omoni Oboli has done since she embarked on the hugely successful second (or third?) act of her career with 2014’s Being Mrs Elliot. Written by the prolific Naz Onuzo whose credits include The Wedding Party films, Moms at War is a zippy buddy comedy masquerading as a diva off starring Oboli and Funke Akindele, two of Nollywood’s biggest box office attractions. Come for the wish fulfilment display of watching two titans go head to head, but stay for the crackling chemistry that sustains the narration from start to finish, even when it delves into silly, over the top territory. What mother really pours water on a sleeping child to wake them up?
Ebubechukwu (Oboli) and Olaide (Akindele) are two hard striving upper class neighbors residing in a gated community on the Island. Their kids attend the same secondary school but the moms have barely spoken two words to each other in the last two years. Both women are fiercely protective of their kids. So when it turns out that their kids are competitors in school for a single slot to participate in a World Scholars Program, both women competitive in nature, pull out the stops to make sure that the advantage goes to their kid.
The women couldn’t be more different from each other. Ebube is posh while Olaide is an unfinished product of new money. One is a single mother, the other is married. The screenplay hints at but fails to develop their backstories satisfactorily and so the actresses occasionally appear to be playing it by ear. It isn’t much of a stress for Oboli whose Ebube is the straight, uptight one. She has played variations of this character- from Being Mrs Eliott to My Wife & I– in the past and so knows to bring just the right amount of poise expected of a woman trying to hold it all together even when the cracks are widening.
It may seem impossible now but Funke Akindele is actually quite capable of disappearing into another character that isn’t her trademark Jenifa, one of the iconic comedic creations of all time. See Maami where under Tunde Kelani’s disciplined direction, Akindele was able to thrive and demonstrate dramatic chops not seen since her I Need to Know days.
In Moms at War, Oboli isn’t as watchful of Akindele who takes advantage of such lapses to flit inconsistently in and out of character. Her Olaide gets some of the hardest hitting punchlines and is likely to elicit some of the biggest laughs, but Akindele can’t help pandering to make this happen. She knows what the audience expects, and she dishes it even when it is surplus to requirement.
Moms at War is a feel good comedy, but it isn’t just that. Some bait and switch occurs when the film becomes a pro-feminist weapon celebrating the beauty of adult female friendships and the fierce determination of mothers hustling for their kids. A teenage romance element introduced is also noteworthy for not being the cringe fest it could have been.
The moms may be at war but the film really shines as a buddy comedy in which both women are putting moxie together to lift each other up. They get into some bad behavior, get drunk and unleash not just the kids, but the petty in them. In this way, Olaide and Ebubechukwu realize that their differences are merely artificial and they work best when they are united. These sisters thus, begin doing it for themselves.
Akindele and Oboli play off each other so well that when Ebubechukwu hits a bad patch in her marriage, even that God-sanctioned union is secondary to the central relationship between the two women. A happy marriage is great to have, but not as entertaining as watching Akindele and Oboli get up making mischief.
These include putting a husband grabbing skirt on blast, putting a shifty spouse in his place and concocting a far-fetched deal with a Lagos hooker. The story doesn’t always make sense but the actors are all game, and their collective energy powers Moms at War to its richly entertaining conclusion. No surprise if this marks the start of a new franchise.