When the trailer for The Wedding Party landed in 2016, there were fears that the trailer, a glamorous, 3 minutes long mashup of popular faces and familiar romantic comedy tropes, was at risk of giving the entire plot away. Director Kemi Adetiba begged to differ and promised a refreshing experience. Turns out she was right. To an extent.
The Wedding Party swam in clichés but the plot however thinly layered, was not as straightforward as what the trailer hinted. The inevitable sequel, The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai takes the opposite route.
Niyi Akinmolayan (Out of Luck, The Arbitration) replaces Adetiba and while the trailer for his installment in the franchise manages to be neater, sexier and glossier than its predecessor, it also gives away too much, managing to summarise the entire film in just a little above two minutes.
Months after the events that united the Onwuka and Coker clan, another wedding is in the works. Anyone who has seen the trailer knows exactly how this came to be. For those who somehow missed the promotional onslaught, a quick recap.
At a fancy dinner, Nonso Onwuka, elder brother to Banky W’s Dozie, played by Enyinna Nwigwe accidentally proposes to his girlfriend, Deirdre Winston, (Daniella Down) the lovable Caucasian with a fetish for Nigerian men, friends and food. She accepts, because that is what you do when a man gets on his knees and pulls out a ring. Before he even mouths the words, she says yes.
The relationship between Nonso and Deirdre creates a perfect environment for a clash of cultures, especially when her parents enter the picture. The Winstons – particularly the patriarch, played by Michael de Pinna – aren’t exactly stoked that their daughter has chosen a Nigerian for a life partner. They arrive Nigeria with all of their prejudices intact and between being overly adventurous with the local menu and insulting their gracious hosts, manage to derail the wedding. Or at least they almost do.
It is The Wedding Party after all and nothing is going to get in the way of another lavish celebration, especially when the Onwukas and the Cokers are deeply invested. Instead of one party, there are two. The first is the traditional wedding, set in Lagos and it features elaborate costumes, pop music, beautiful dancing, and some conflict. You know, much like the first time around.
Patience Ozokwor’s disagreeable Ada, elder sister to Richard Mofe-Damijo’s Chief Onwuka arrives like a sweeping hurricane, wearing her racist tendencies on her sleeves. It isn’t long before she brings out the same ugliness from her in-laws who secretly think Nigerians are only good for wiping s**t.
There are disturbing racial undertones in the encounters between the Winstons and the Onwukas that the movie chooses not to engage with. One could excuse this lapse with the prior understanding that this movie isn’t the place and time for such interrogation. So the screenplay, credited to Naz Onuzo, papers these tensions with an applause eliciting declaration by Shola Sobowale – all over the place as the Coker matriarch, Tinuade – that she is proudly Nigerian.
How exciting for her.
The party must go on, so cast and crew land in Dubai for the white wedding and the movie takes a turn as Akinmolayan begins to luxuriate in all the opulence around him. The hotels, airports, expensive cars, they are all great to look at but at some point, they begin to play like an advertisement for Dubai as the perfect destination for events. Have some money? Forget your problems, just hop on a plane to Dubai and all will be well.
It isn’t as easy to be as invested in the love story between Deardre and Nonso despite the very good intentions of both Nwigwe and Down, two fine actors, doing everything they can on screen. They act in all the right ways and say all the right things but their pairing simply fails to sizzle, not in the way that Dozie and Dunni managed in the first film. It also doesn’t help that the real life outcome of that romance has played out so publicly that anything else must surely appear like a counterfeit.
Dozie and Dunni are in the picture, but they have rightly been relegated to supporting players. She is heavily pregnant but that doesn’t stop her from jetting off to Dubai for some sun and fun. You can guess what happens next.
Just like the first film, The Wedding Party: Destination Dubai is overpopulated with supporting characters and cameo appearances, in equal turns hit and miss. There are rumours Sobowale’s Tinuade was initially written out of the earlier drafts of the film and watching the film, it is easy to see why. Logically, it makes no sense for her to be as involved as she is in a wedding that is not hers to plan anyway. To justify her inclusion, Sobowale dances and prances and causes mischief, but she’s done her best work in the first film.
Richard Mofe Damijo remains as unconvincing as he was the first time around as an Igbo man and the film could have very well done without Ali Baba’s fumbling. He still does not seem to understand the first thing about his character. Ireti Doyle is fine even though it appears the first layer of ice around her has thawed. There is precious little reason for Zainab Balogun’s harried wedding planner, Wonu to return, and to make things worse, she is asked to speak perhaps the most unconvincing Igbo lines put to film this year. The less said about AY’s late addition, the better.
Comedians are teleported in to inject minute doses of humour, to complement the efforts of the writer. Sometimes it works out well (Chigul, Seyi Law, Chiwetalu Agu), sometimes it doesn’t (Funny Bone, Wofai Fada, Saka). After some tension created to elongate the process, the film rounds up with a – you guessed it – destination wedding party with lots of dancing and merry making.
At this point, a note of advice. Financial decisions have to be made but instead of indulging in the temptation to gather everyone once again for the wedding of Yemisi (Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama) and Sola (Ikechukwu), it may be wiser to consider a spin off detailing the continuing adventures of Dozie and Dunni as they confront adulthood together. That way there is a compelling reason to keep Tinuade Coker in the picture, and keep the fans happy.
More of the same isn’t necessarily bad, but more of the same gets old fast.
The writer tweets from @drwill20
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.