Enyinna Nwigwe headlines this dramatic comedy about a chronic bachelor whose playboy lifestyle is jolted into reset mode when he wakes up to a baby- the product of one of his numerous sexual encounters- at his doorstep. Confused and frustrated, Ransome (Nwigwe) must learn to accommodate the newest member of his life while jumping through hoops to keep his job and retain his sanity in the bustling Port Harcourt city.
Continuing in his tradition of making homegrown mainstream entertainment from his Rivers state base, writer, producer and director Willis Ikedum (The Mummy Dearest franchise) places his favorite city at the center of this hybrid of comedy and drama. The sexual politics behind Baby Steps are at once suspect and quite frankly, retrogressive. The hero is a douche whose excesses are to be expected because he is a man. The women are all dolts and the only one of them worth the hero’s genuine affections earns it on account of her maternal instincts not necessarily because of her ruthless cunning.
The screenplay takes baby steps while setting up its premise and for the first hour or so, it seems that Ikedum isn’t interested in going anywhere interesting. Anyone who has so much as sighted the trailer has been given a clue as to where the film is headed. Instead, the first thirty minutes of Baby Steps chooses uninteresting ways to make its case, a repetitive chronicle of Ransome’s playboy ways.
Ikedum thinks that audiences need to see a gazillion scenes of Ransome juggling his women in the air before they can appreciate that he is scum. He is scum all right but this kind of movie exists to soften him up and then find the humanity and the good in him. All he needs is the love of a good woman.
Baby Steps would be another forgettable attempt if it had stuck to this cliched playboy redemption script but the story manages to pull out a second half that is as nutty as it is surprising. Apart from jolting the film with some much-needed burst of energy, the only other reason this plot twist works at some level is because game changer, Bimbo Akintola finally takes the reins.
As Karen, the mousy work colleague who doubles as best friend and occasional assistant to Ransome, her role seems one note at first, but by the end, despite working with writing that is less than satisfactory, Akintola manages to make a little something out of it. No mean feat considering the film cannot quite escape the low budget constraints that serve as a distraction. Ikedum’s picture is moody, cinematography is nonexistent and the sound is far from adequate.
Reliable actors like Nwigwe, Akintola and Segun Arinze are in for the ride but there is only so much that they can do with the kind of poor writing- and directing- that Ikedum has provided them with. The screenplay is at best a rough draft and the directing is hardly noticeable. Baby Steps never for once feels like a proper movie at all, more like a low budget contraption that would have been served better if it went direct to video.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.