Film Review: A Naija Christmas

It’s a Marry Christmas

I’d prefer to classify “A Naija Christmas” as Kunle Afoloyan’s first foray into neo-Nollywood characteristic narrative style: a superstar cast, an endless witty soundtrack, the fastest pacing imaginable, exaggerating casual Naija scenarios to a point of unbelievability, etcetera. But Afoloyan attempts to make this film a masterclass on how to do it better.

Rachel Oniga, another maestro delivering an acting masterclass, plays the mother of 3 full-grown boys who are too irresponsible to stop promiscuity, date reasonable women or one their age. She comes up with a brilliant plan: whoever gets married before Christmas gets the big house she shares with her maids. Which calls her parenting method into serious doubt. It appears she has raised boys who lack self-respect and can’t work hard enough to build their own family home. But that’s unimportant: focus on the moral story here.

The tussle over who gets married first, however, ends up being just between the first two agbayas (Yoruba for big for nothing fools with no shame, dignity or common sense… okay, I exaggerated there a bit, as expected.) The eldest son, Ugo (Kunle Remi) thinks he can fool his mother into accepting any bride, all to get the house, sell it and pay off his debt to a loan shark. His brother, Obi (Efa Iwara) wants to win back his girlfriend, who is not just his boss but also said NO when he publicly proposed to her. He has no other serious motivation to get the house; he just wants to rush into a lifetime commitment to impress his mother and beat his brother. At least, Ugo knows it’s a game. To him, it’s the love heist of the century (I’m seriously annoyed he kept pushing his glasses like Professor from Money Heist. Yes Efa, I noticed). The third son’s story was abandoned halfway in the cutting room.

The supporting characters are generally forgettable but Lateef Adedimeji plays the loan shark and that’s a cool story cos for the first time, Adedimeji is a supporting character that isn’t monotonic, cartoonish, and a goof where conversations go to die. On second thought, chai, those are the exact features of a loan shark who dresses like a pimp. But it’s still an upgrade. I’m just thankful that Bro Shaggi didn’t pop up halfway through the story to do a weird dance and give the characters directions.

A Naija Christmas is funny without being loud. It’s fast-paced but not rough. It’s the same Nollywood you know but with all that ‘we can do whatever we want in this club’ energy brought down to a 50. It doesn’t try out set pieces solely designed to make you laugh; it subtly nudges you to laugh at the absurdity it presents in the form of witless characters in their fabricated circus. What I’m trying to say is this isn’t the type of comedy we are used to, the type that breaks the Nigerian box office. It’s just a bit better. Perhaps this is what happens when filmmakers aren’t obligated to produce crowd-pleasers, or perhaps it’s a benefit of having Netflix on hand. Again it doesn’t matter, the mission was accomplished.

A Naija Christmas is not the perfect holiday story but the power of family, community and love all come together to give us an insight into Afolayan’s version of a naija Christmas. I can manage that.

5.5/10

Okiki Adeduyite

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