Comedy films are so successful in Nigeria that little or no attention is paid to the quality of films in this genre that get a cinema release.
The Nigerian film industry has had quite a poor year in terms of quality, but nevertheless, Nigerian films are expected to gross N2 billion at the box office in 2017 — thanks to comedy films — so the industry is still the winner. Why then should they really care about quality?
The latest comedy offering is “Excess Luggage,” a film by Damijo Efe Young, co-produced by IK Ogbonna and Nikky Ufondu. It will probably be a hit: Audiences are getting precisely what the trailer promised.
The picture opens with Douglas Chukwudoro (Mike Ezuruonye), a wealthy real estate manager, jogging on the street with his personal assistant, who is burdened by unusually heavy makeup and distracting squints.
Shortly, we are introduced to Enyinna (IK Ogbonna), an illiterate village man who is headed to Canaanland with his wife Ugonma (Queen Nwokoye), and their son. When his car breaks down, he decides to make a detour to his cousin’s place until they can fix their car and continue their journey.
Douglas’ wife, a superficial and glitz-obsessed woman, Bianca (Nikky Ufondo), doesn’t want them around because they are ‘disease.’ She tries to convince her husband to send them away but is reminded that “they are family.” A response that tries to humanize Douglas, who is actually a snob capable of firing a worker for merely looking at him.
They live in a mansion with servants and personal assistants to cater to their needs. You don’t get to see them work or associate with people of their class, rather you are constantly reminded of their status through the several calls and conversations they have with and about Governors, Vice Presidents and other political office holders in Nigeria. The story creates for them a world that is as fantastic and far-fetched as anything you have ever seen.
Basically, “Excess Luggage” is about an illiterate’s man’s visit to a wealthy man’s mansion. So you already know what to expect : cliché comic actions such as weird reactions to an air conditioner, television and other gadgets that don’t exist in certain villages.
“Excess Luggage” is a doltish movie with a predictable story, but it will make you laugh, either at how good a joke is or how bad.
Despite the stale humour in "Excess Luggage," the most offensive thing about this film is the soundtrack. It's cornier than anything you've heard this year with lyrics such as "even if we fall for gutter, you go turn am to pure water."
Also, just like another comedy movie that wasn’t made for the cinemas, “Alakada Reloaded,” “Excess Luggage” offers subtitles that often remind you of Africa Magic Yoruba.
The writer pays more attention to comedy than developing characters or a story viewers can actually care about.
The problem with the movie begins when it tries to take on more depth than we have been let in on. We are suddenly expected to accept that its core intent is tackling issues faced by married couples. But we couldn't relate because at no point was it hinted that Bianca and Douglas had issues in their marriage.
If you’re in desperate need to take a lesson away from the film, you will find it in Enyinna and Ugonma, who actually do make a funny and likeable couple.
“Happiness is inside you and the important thing is that you have enough to give out,” Enyinna says to Ugonma, who struggles to return to the village after a weekend in the beautiful mansion.
Their romance is effervescent, their comedy seems natural, unfortunately it’s wrapped with stereotypes that sometimes take away the fun.
“Excess Luggage” is short, yet it feels too long. Probably because the film doesn’t know when to quit, and to take up time, it comes up with contrived situations such as Douglas having a meeting with his staff.
During this meeting, he verbally abuses them and fires some for no just reason. Viewers are also offered a forced and unnecessary flashback featuring Douglas’ parents (Shaffy Bello and Fred Amata); a scene created either to take up time or acknowledge the popular estate where the film was shot.
There are also those ridiculous scenes where Douglas and his wife, and Enyinna and wife, just dance around, apparently to show us how much they love each other.
Also, because this is an era of drones, we get a blink of technological wizardry used to capture the beauty of where the film is set.
In "Excess Luggage," IK Ogbonna stammers for comic effect, and it's nice to know that he has the skill to deliver a comic character that isn’t exaggerated and unrealistic. And that is applaudable.
Nwokoye, who has had a strong presence in comedy films such as “Aremu the Principal,” “Ada Mbano” and “Pretty Liars,” with her performance in “Excess Luggage,” stands out as the film’s secret weapon and gives it just enough brightness to keep it alive.
Mike Ezuruonye as Douglas and Nikky Ufuondu as Bianca are not funny, but at least they do a better job at supporting Ogbonna and Nwokoye than the actual supporting cast do.
The film is filled with supporting characters that are inconsequential to the plot. For instance, Denrele as Bianca’s stylist and Lisa Omorodion as Douglas’ PA have sparse effect on the film that if you take them away from the cast, it doesn't get better or worse.
Also, the introduction of a daughter only minutes before the credits roll is a terrible decision that doesn't bode well for the movie.
Finally, "Excess Luggage" gives the audience an ending that stretches credibility and any sense of logic. The film suffers from a screenplay covered with cliché.
However, if you want a movie that merely entertains with its comic antics, you will probably get your money’s worth.
Also, if you have a selective memory and choose to only remember the funny scenes when you leave the cinema, then you will likely consider “Excess Luggage” an Okay movie.
"Excess Luggage" is currently showing in Nigeria cinemas.