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AFRICAN CINEMA, Nigerian Cinema

‘The Wedding Party’ (2016, 2017): Melodramas Without Drama

Directed by: Kemi Adetiba [1], Niyi Akinmolayan [2] || Produced by: Don Omope, Zulu Oyibo, Ijeoma Agukoronye [1], Prescilla Nwanah, Temidayo Abudu, Tope Oshin Ogun, Naz Onuzo [2]

Screenplay by: Tosin Otudeko, Kemi Adetiba [1], Naz Onuzo [2] Starring: Adesua Etomi, Banky Wellington, Richard Mofe Damijo, Sola Sobowale, Iretiola Doyle, Alibaba Akporobome, Zainab Balogun, Beverly Naya, Somkele Iyamah, Enyinna Nwigwe, Ikechukwu Onunaku, Daniella Down, Stephen Damien

Music by: Dr. Bayo Adepetun [1, 2], Michael “Truth” Ogunlade [1] || Cinematography: Akpe Ododoru [1], Malcolm McLean [2] || Edited by: Andrew Webber [1], Victoria Akujobi [2] || Country: Nigeria || Language: English, Yoruba, Igbo

Running Time: 98-110 minutes

Numerous popular film and television titles neither irritate me with their incompetence nor anger me with their lack of innovation, but rather bore me with their bland execution or forgettable content: Friends (1994-2004), Will & Grace (1998-2020), American Dad (2005-????), Family Guy (1999-????), and The Cleveland Show (2009-2013, any Seth MacFarlane cartoon, really) on broadcast television, and Munna Bhai: MBBS (2003), Boyhood (2014), Bridesmaids (2011), and The Hangover (2009, 2011, 2013) movies as feature films are examples. None of these projects are terrible or offensive, but in some respects, their lack of offense or biting personality is part of their problem for me; I find all of those projects so forgettable because of their bland timidity and whitewashed content.

Adesua Etomi (center right) and Banky Wellington (center left) succeed in portraying an on-screen wedding that’s as boring as a real-life wedding.

Oftentimes, the most boring, snoozeworthy cinema are the dramatic or romantic comedy versions of high-concept blockbusters, which means they dilute their style and content to appeal to the broadest audiences possible (re: the lowest common denominator), but without significant special FX, set-pieces, or genre plot devices of any kind. These projects, whether low-budget, multi-camera situational comedies (i.e. sitcoms) on television or big-budget, feature-length dramatic vehicles for movie stars, have their work cut out for them maintaining any sort of narrative tension. Unless these projects are musicals, a genre of theatre and filmmaking that is designed to celebrate ordinary, everyday drama with extraordinary flourishes (e.g. song-and-dance numbers, spectacular costumes, theatrical performances, etc.), finding excitement in these shows or movies is like trying to appreciate the spicy, zesty flavor of a rice cake.

What usually happens with these generic, milquetoast dramas or broad, dialogue-driven comedies is that the filmmakers give up on creating gags, excitement, or developing characters, however simple, through visuals and resort to their name brand stars’ charisma to carry the story, which is the case with Kemi Adetiba’s The Wedding Party and Niyi Akinmolayan’s The Wedding Party 2. Given how these films are more or less carbon copies of one another (the producers made the same movie twice), I decided to analyze them as a single project, a Nigerian example of the above explained phenomenon: Mainstream, dramatic cinema that is so generic, safe, and forgettable it is only profitable for its marketing and good-looking stars. For the record, these are the highest grossing Nigerian films of all time.

The basic premise of both films is a familiar play on two lovers tying the knot despite their families not liking each other. It’s the sort of play on Romeo and Juliet (1597) that has been done a thousand times before, yet unlike the colorful embellishes of a melodramatic musical like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), The Wedding Party adds nothing notable to this ages old formula. Cinematographically speaking, The Wedding Party 1 & 2 (henceforth, TWP) are blank slates, using little to no creative editing, camera angles, long-takes, or sound-design to produce jokes or inform the characters. Even simple things like awkward camera pans a la Borat (2006) or goofy framing a la Austin Powers (1997, 1999, 2002) is beyond the talky, derivative formula of these movies, though I admit this dearth of even the slightest directorial creativity is just unfortunate, not surprising.

What viewers are left with is a paranoid, judgmental bride (Adesua Etomi) and a caricature of a groom’s vindictive ex-girlfriend (Beverly Naya) in the first film, as well as a contrived “accidental proposal” misunderstanding in the sequel, to generate cheap drama. Given how most of the characters (e.g. Sola Sobowale, Iretiola Doyle, Zainab Balogun, plus others) are portrayed as such cartoons, one would expect the story around them to include over-the-top political melodrama (e.g. Gone with the Wind [1939]) or musical numbers (e.g. every major Bollywood movie, ever); but no, viewers must take these films’ tiresome, predictable, boring premises with no cinematographic or narrative chaser, no sense of audiovisual style or pizzazz, whatsoever. The only notable aspect of TWP’s production design are its impressive costumes, which are often mere vehicles for the movies’ obnoxious product placement.

The only parts of TWP I enjoyed were the more restrained, charismatic performances of male leads Banky Wellington and Enyinna Nwigwe, as well as an amusing sequence where a burglar holds several members of the titular wedding party hostage, which is the lone sequence in either film that boasts semi-creative situational comedy. Other than those minor elements, there’s not much to entertain, let alone impress one in either of these movies.

Iretiola Doyle (center left) and Richard Mofe-Damijo (far right) star as the parents of the groom in both Wedding Party films, whom must clash with their in-laws because reasons.

I’ve never cared for the generic characters of television sitcoms like Friends (1994-2004), nor the bland storytelling of independent features like Boyhood (2014), nor the saccharine, contrived screenplays of major studio pictures like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) in Bollywood or various Happy Madison productions in Hollywood. I do not get the appeal of these cookie-cutter projects, especially given their sheer lack of style and lazy production design. The Wedding Party is a Nigerian double-feature whose dull content and vapid style are comparable to all the aforementioned, notable only for its stars’ good looks, designer clothing, and bloated supporting cast. It’s the cinematic equivalent of white bread, and while white bread is offensive to nobody, I’ve said before that the worst thing a movie can be is boring, and white bread is the definition of that.

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SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Bland, inoffensive, and chock full of unlikable supporting characters, obvious product placement, and tedious dialogue, The Wedding Party is the filmic representation of scrolling through your phone’s news feed when you have nothing else to do. Cinematographic style is near absent throughout, while most any situational comedy is both forced and overwhelmingly based in dialogue.

However… a couple members of the starring cast give decent performances, while one goofy sequence in the 2016 film verges on effective slapstick.

—> NOT RECOMMENDED

? I sympathize most with the armed thief, because why shouldn’t these snobbish, shallow, annoying rich kids get robbed?

About The Celtic Predator

I love movies, music, video games, and big, scary creatures.

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