Reviewed by Augusta Okon
Movie Title : Phone Swap
Starring : Wale Ojo, Nse Ikpe Etim, Joke Silva,
Chika Okpala, Hafiz Oyetoro,Lydia Forson,
Directed by : Kunle Afolayan
Genre : Comedy/romance
Despite the ground breaking impact of Kingsley Ogoro’s pace setting, wave making, hilarious movie, ‘Usofia/Osuofia in London’(2003) which shut the mouth of skeptics, broke barriers and stepped on to the international plate, comedy continues to jog slowly in its “outdated mediocrity jogging foot wear”, rather than sprint in modern spike shoes and burn the movie tracks. Its counterpart “drama and romance” bask in the euphoria of ‘winning streaks’ adding multitudinous titles and awards in their kitties. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, with Funke Akindele’s ‘The Return of Jenifa’ (sequel to Jenifa) ‘shaking’ the Nigerian box office with N33 Million as one of the top grossing movies of 2011. This indicates one thing…Nigerians love comedy…and a quality one at that!.
Kunle Afolayan, the multi-award winning filmmaker with a “no holds barred” ideology, takes a radical departure from his previous genres (Irapada- drama), (The Figurine- thriller) to walk upon the lonely comedy path in a bid to pull off another stunning production. The big question is…does he pull it off successfully?”.
Phone Swap a. k a ‘P.S’, is a N 60 Million budget movie shot for six months within Nigeria. It boasts of a high pulsating, strong hearted plot, unparalleled acting dexterity from a solid cast, visual opulence, ‘void’ of unrealistically twisty boring scenes played in the messy maze game, created by charlatan script writers. Award winning screenplay writer, Kemi Adesoye, keeps ‘PS’ simple, fresh, exciting, and of course funny.
The movie in inter-played scenes unveils the lead characters; the male, Akin (Wale Ojo) an ambitious, arrogant, corporate executive and a ‘matured bachelor’ bereft of emotions and the female lead, Mary Onyejekwe (Nse Ikpe Etim) a pretty seamstress who works for a ‘shark’ at Alexis. Akin poses as a threat to his immediate boss who is determined to hit him below the belt. He has reformation strategies for the company, tucked underneath his sleeves and plans on unveiling same at the company’s retreat, but there’s a little problem.
The venue has been kept as a secret, and he entrusts its unravelling to his trusted P.A, Alex (Hafiz Oyetoro). Mary on the other hand has series of issues to contend with ; a broken heart, an overweight sister, Cynthia (Ada Amah) who is a police officer, specializing in terrorizing her husband, in-laws, and is no where to be found after grabbing her husband’s ‘manhood’, her father (Chika Okpala) insisting on her being at the family meeting to resolve the burning issue, while her boss disapproves of same. She has a change of heart and permits her to see to the issue within a limited time frame, alongside doing some embroidery on a high profile client’s outfit while away.
The retreat has been slated to hold in Abuja and both parties in inter-played scenes hurriedly make a dash for the airport. They accidentally bump into each other and ‘good Samaritans’ hand them their black berry phones which they gladly receive. However, messages received on their ‘BBs’ alter their destined venues with Akin heading for Owerri and Mary for Abuja. This costly “phone swap’ threatens to rip apart their professional and family life, but Akin suggests a hasty solution to the looming problem…one that could have certain consequences he never bargained for…
‘PS’ adopts the use of English, our national colloquial (vernacular) pints of Igbo, Yoruba, and the Ghanaian languages as the communication vehicles. Each unfolding scene, interplay, fuels our interest as we mentally change expectation gears. It’s really hard to flaw this movie especially in terms of technicality as the graduate of the New York Film Academy, no doubt paid attention to details. The cinematography was solid (loved the cinematic effect of the farmland), good angle on and crane up shots.
I loved the establishing shot hovering in between interplayed scenes; books, ties, shirts, clothes to the sewing machine, dresses, the concealed identity of lead male actor, creating a contra-distinction between the lead characters. Production design was top notch, with Pat Nebo re-asserting his No. 1 position in the sphere via his construction of the airplane’s cabin used in one of the scenes.
The comedial weight tips heavily towards Akin’s scenes, rocking viewers with laughter time and time again, courtesy of Cynthia, her father, Tony (Mary’s ex-boyfriend) and her twin brothers (alpha and omega). The ‘rolling of eyes’ accusation traded between Akin and mother (Joke Silva) over the phone, eating and sleeping scenes, lines such as “is your boss God, sack your boss”… “Illuminate me”… “emm business”… “it’s late, let’s just say I’m Mary’s new friend”… “she grabbed her man thing…she deserves to die”…. “he’s Mary’s boy friend…thank you Jesus”… “it’s ugly, not trendy, it’s like a cassava sack” are bound to make you laugh. The lighting, editing, sound tracks and effects, directing, deployment of camera techniques scored on points.
However, I found it rather overbearing with the inability to wittingly conceal the direct import of product placements of sponsors (GLO, BB) without shoving it in our faces. The BB ads subtly showed during the rolling of the opening credits, Glo Zone, sale of Glo recharge cards by Afolayan decked in the branded sales apparel, the use of Glo text cash desk to receive cash screamed “hey guys we sponsored this movie…halla!” .
According to Kunle Afolayan, it took Nse six months to learn the Owerri-igbo dialect, but I’m wondering why that long?. The movie wasn’t dominantly in the Igbo language, it was just a few scenes she spoke the dialect especially with her father. The time line shows the void we have in the language fold in Nollywood. We need to get professional ‘dialect coaches’ fast. The swapping of identical BB brands, Cynthia who was no where to be found, suddenly showing up some distance away from Akin when he’s buying recharge cards, and did the messages on both parties phones at the airport come from “Alex”…hmm all too coincidental.
Anyway it’s rare to see ‘all characters’ being perfectly executed by actors(esses) but believe me, ‘PS’ is an exception. The thespians nailed their roles big time. Akin (Wale Ojo, AMAA 2012 Nominee for the Best male actor in a leading role earned from this movie) steps into the shoes of a brash, icy hearted, unapologetic man whose ‘love of his life’ is his job. The ‘Meet the Adebanjos’ UK TV star, with upcoming movies such as Johnny English, The Guard, replaced the initial man for the role, Joseph Benjamin.
Mary (Nse Ikpe Etim) also AMAA 2012 nominee for Best actress in a lead role (for Mr and Mrs ) fell into the pool ten times to perfect a scene, suffered a dislocation after falling off a bike, had to learn the Owerri- Igbo dialect to live up to her role. The Unical Theatre Arts graduate is fast becoming Nollywood’s sweetheart.
“PS” was nominated in certain categories at AMAA 2012; Achievement in production design, Best Nigerian film, Best Actor in a supporting role (Hafiz Oyetoro) and Best Actor in a leading role (Wale Ojo). It walked away with the award for Achievement in production design only … i wonder why?. Anyway, Phone Swap is incontrovertibly a first class comedy movie in Nollywood, sailing on the seas of dynamism and ingenuity, with its mast of professionalism beating proudly in the air and pointing to one fact…It has raised the movie bar in Nollywood once again!
Point’s Rating – 4
Points Rating guide:
4- Very good
1- An apology