Wedding films are a big part of Nollywood. They are so popular that the subgenre’s tropes have become familiar. But they offer simple narratives that can be entertaining because of how accessible the wedding culture is to filmmakers and audiences alike. Our Saturdays are synonymous with the vibrant owambe culture, even our daily social feeds are filled with the latest proposals. Films like The Wedding Party, arguably the biggest wedding-themed film in Nollywood, thrived by tapping into the rich tradition surrounding these ceremonies. While filmmakers found an irresistible avenue for storytelling, viewers slowly desired more. It is on this call for an alternative story that Ada Omo Daddy infuses some twists to gain an edge, but how well does it execute this?
Ada Omo Daddy deviates from the usual storyline. Here, more serious themes like a potential paternity deception, unveiling of true parentage and the consequent quest to explore one’s familial roots are explored. In fact, the film does not focus on the wedding ceremony as the highlight. Joining a roster of films that highlights a blending of ethnicities like The Wedding Party and Meet the In-Laws, it features a Yoruba family and an Igbo-Efik clan. However, unlike its predecessors, the film falls short of delivering the expected familiar warmth and entertainment due to a forceful plot that stumbles into confusion.
Pero (Omowumi Dada), eldest daughter to Chief and Mrs Balogun (played by Dele Odule and Sola Sobawale) is set to marry Victor (Tayo Faniran). Pero’s life takes a dramatic turn with the sudden appearance of Ifeanyi (Charles Okafor), her biological father, stirring up trouble in the seemingly perfect Balogun family. This sudden appearance of Ifeanyi, estranged but now repentant, unfolds unpleasant past secrets that must be resolved before Pero’s wedding.
Despite the established template in the wedding films sphere, Ada Omo Daddy manages to bungle the job. Maybe because it tries hard to be different – never mind that parts of it are eerily similar to the 2016 blockbuster The Wedding Party. There is a conflict that is resolved during a wedding ceremony. Characters also have similar personalities: a reserved family with a snubby mother (Carol King), and extroverted in-laws with an exuberant mother (Sola Sobawale). Bent on not replicating too much of past films, Ada Omo Daddy attempts to turn the story on its head, introducing plot twists that it cannot defend.
It all starts from being told the entire story within the first 40 minutes of the film. The repentant father establishes contact. Pero confronts her mother, the mother lies. A picture evidence surfaces. Mother breaks and tells the truth. Pero warms up to Ifeanyi after a number of visits, which clashes with her mother’s stance. All of these are within the first half of the film. What does that leave us with in the rest of the film? A mixture of what we got in Biodun Stephen’s Sista (which also tells the story of a repentant runaway father) and a wedding ceremony to hope for. This leaves the viewer sceptical about any anticipated big climax. A low-hanging fruit that could have been explored is the inlaw’s reaction to this development. On the path the film takes us on, we even forget that there is an upcoming wedding.
With the two hours of runtime blatantly misused, the convolution of the concepts has an impact on everything. We do not even understand the motivations of some characters; like why Ifeanyi, who confirms being deadbeat at the time of Pero’s birth, doesn’t seem sorry and believes he has the right to see the child he once ignored. It makes us question the values we should uphold (à la Sista). Also, Pero forgiving her returning father more than her constant mother highlights how life and family relationships can be complicated. The story does not match the expected behaviour and throughout you wonder if there is a context you’re missing.
The actors in Ada Omo Daddy also struggle. Omowumi Dada who has excelled in roles like the subtle seductress in Ayinla, struggles under the weight of this plot. Tayo Faniran, one of the standout actors in the 2023 thriller, Gangs of Lagos, who plays her fiance, is stoic and emotionless, raising questions about the actor’s range or potential directorial missteps. Faniran, whose act was more immersive in Gangs of Lagos, is monotonous even in his delivery of a marriage proposal and is not very convincing as a love interest.
Well, a wedding film is not complete without the many other family members who come along with their own quirks, baggage and motivations. This provides a film with a variety of personalities who can clash, fall in love, or collude, to make for a more intriguing film when well mixed. Some of these characters in Ada Omo Daddy are played by notable veterans in Nollywood and there seems to be an over-reliance on their experience. Chief Ndubuisi (Chiwetalu Agu), who plays Ifeanyi’s uncle, occasionally serves us with dry humour that rarely elicits laughter. He also acts as an instigator when demanding marriage rites should include the family of the biological father, borrowing from his stereotypical roles. Sola Sobowale is dramatic with intense reactions more times than are necessary. Charles Okafor is well, Charles Okafor. He does not embody the remorseful character. Even when he begs, he sounds like he’s acting. Victor’s parents, played by Fred Amata and Carol King do not have enough screen time, and you almost forget they are there until you see them at the wedding at the end.
Co-directed by Akay Mason and Adebayo Tijani, scenes in Ada Omo Daddy move too swiftly, ominous music plays excessively, and the audience fails to feel the intended tension. Emotional outbursts and character tears become more annoying than evocative. Instead, more focus is placed on the statement of opulence, with mansions, gold, diamonds and elaborate decor displayed every other minute.
The cinematography helmed by the seasonal Barnabas Emordi emerges as a standout element in the film, showcasing moments where the expertise behind the camera becomes evident. During Ifeanyi’s recount of seeing his son’s lifeless body, the camera skillfully captures the anguish etched on his face as he unveils the cloth covering the young man’s face. The raw emotion portrayed in that instance is enough to convey the heartbreaking reality of the boy’s demise. This scene resonates with the iconic line from The Godfather: “Look how they massacred my boy.” However, despite visuals that match the blockbuster’s level, the film suffers from occasional subtitle disappearance, and a notable continuity issue arises when the characters’ costumes and surroundings fail to match the intended time period during flashbacks to Mrs. Balogun’s past, disrupting the narrative coherence.
Ada Omo Daddy misuses its star-studded cast, showcasing a level of disorganisation that suggests a lack of understanding of the initial story concept. Even Adewale Ayuba’s reception rendition of “Koloba Koloba” struggles to spark a redemptive joy in a frustrated viewer who sits through the film. In the aftermath, there is a lingering feeling reminiscent of Fela Kuti’s 1975 track, “Expensive Shit,” a more fitting title for this review.
Ada Omo Daddy premiered on December 15, 2023, in cinemas.
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- The Efik attire the men wore at the Introduction ceremony, why did they tie the neck wrappers like chokers?
- “Twice beaten, by now you should be shy” was one funny quip by Chief Ndubuisi.
- When Mrs Balogun slapped Pero, I was overjoyed.
- The dramatic dance troupe to welcome Ada – Pero, was heartwarming and hilarious. Didn’t know one could print a flex banner that quickly.