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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo: A Review of EbonyLife’s Chief Daddy

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There are a vast number of stars in the new Ebony Life film, Chief Daddy, but there is too little that matters. The plot is thin, the acting is sparse, the laughs come in late, but, yes, there are many celebrities.

Chief Beecroft, the titular Chief Daddy, dies early in the film and an assortment of characters descend on his mansion. His surviving wife (Joke Silva) had only her rapper son (played by Falz), and his two older half-sisters from a dead wife, to contend with. Now, there is a mistress, a love child, another mistress, and a set of twins.

Apparently, Balzac was wrong: Behind every great fortune lies a greater libido. According to his lawyers, played by Richard Mofe-Damijo and Dakore Akande in a nice Ebony Life Productions in-joke, Chief Daddy wanted a bit of a groovy funeral involving all of his survivors’ contributions — a requirement before the reading of his will. But with all of the acrimony and bitterness, how are they supposed to get together? The film’s plot is hung on this thread.

If you have guessed that the high point of the story would come at the funeral, you are either really smart or you watched The Wedding Party movies. (A scene with a wordless Bisola Aiyeola is the humour highlight, a rap single by Falz’s character coming in second place.) Broadly, Abudu’s productions need an anchor scene where bright colours and narrative climax come together. It is how—and maybe why—almost all of the Ebony Life films feature a kind of celebration. Royal Hibiscus Hotel is the sole exception: 2015’s Fifty revolved around a birthday; The Wedding Party movies had the eponymous event; Chief Daddy has a funeral. Celebration is the point in these movies.

Even if the director is Kemi Adetiba, Ishaya Bako or, in this case, Ebony Life’s new favourite, Niyi Akinmolayan, whose only contribution here seems to be allowing his DP make several pans within a continuous shot, the directive, one imagines, is the same : no character is allowed to cry anything but tears of joy, and if there is any inkling of sadness, a plot turn will be fabricated to fix the glitch. This means that although Chief Daddy makes some noises about the usefulness of a family’s cohesiveness, this really is a film that was made to give Nigerians a chance to catch their celebrities on the big screen especially as the Christmas holiday season is upon us.

Some of these celebs are in roles so small that it is not hard to imagine that a business developer told Abudu and Akinmolayan to include their scenes so that blinking viewers might buy another ticket to catch them. If so, mission accomplished.

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” someone says in the film. Well, me too.

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is a critic and essayist. His writing on film, books and music appear in The Guardian UK and The Africa Report. He mentored critics at the Durban Film Festival and has attended critic academies in Germany and Holland.In 2015, Aigbokhaevbolo became the first ever winner of the Music/Entertainment Journalist of the Year award (AFRIMA). He tweets @catchoris.

15 Comments

  1. Joan

    December 10, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I just knew it.A Nigerian based critic wouldn’t write it as it is.

    • Ovadje

      December 13, 2018 at 3:49 am

      @JOAN, Aunty, abegi who told you that Oris is not Nigerian-based? He is right here in Lagos with the rest of us.

  2. Eloho

    December 10, 2018 at 10:50 am

    Hmmm…this review is somehow.. I mean, we aren’t expecting an oscar worthy movie but for me sha, i’ve seen all the trailers and they are very funny; funny enough for me to go to the cinemas to watch it. Plus I just want to see my Falz’s performance, that british accent is world class X-D and Jenifa too. Even Mama G and Osuofia reunited.

  3. Tobi

    December 10, 2018 at 11:18 am

    My big sister’s friend was at the premiere and she said the movie was really funny so i don’t about this review but I’ll be watching the movie when it comes out.

  4. Ayeesha

    December 10, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Nigeria! We are always so critical of our own, ah! In Hollywood they pack celebrities in their movies all the time, Beyonce, Rihanna and the likes and we all rush to go and see it oh. In Nigeria its a problem, i dont understand. This is why we’re not growing.

    • bolaji

      December 11, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      I don’t think the packing of celebrities is the issue. Pack your celebrities at all cost but pay attention to the craft. Like in Hollywood!

      2
  5. Uberhaute Looks

    December 11, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    He is a critic who talks from the POV of a professional and I agree with him to an extent.

    Niyi Akinmolayan still needs to go back to school; I was so disappointed with his Wedding Party 2; too many big players without knowing how to use them cohesively! No crescendo, Nothing!

    1
  6. Lovable

    December 12, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Hahaha I knew it. This critic has a personal vendetta with Niyi sha. It will come out one day like cinema pointer own about Kasala. Nigerian critics aren’t able to review without any hidden personal attack.

    • Brute

      December 13, 2018 at 11:45 am

      But even I have a personal vendetta against niyi and I have never even met d man. Wedding Party 2 is sufficient enough reason to mark his forehead for future strokes of d cane

      1
    • Matse

      December 13, 2018 at 12:32 pm

      There’s no personal Vendetta here, the critic said it as it is. The movie is quite underwhelming I beg. Same Niyi directed TWP 2 that was also crappy. He needs to horn his craft better. Let’s tell them the truth as it is.

      1
  7. Ekoatheist

    December 13, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Its a bubblegum film don’t know why its even being reviewed. Oris is slowly losing his respect.

  8. Tutu

    December 14, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Everyone that has seen it has rated it very poorly. The things we’re seeing in the comments are exactly what the writer is talking about. Ebony life has a formula for their movies. Celebrities, Party scene and Adverts and PR the life out of the movie. Chief Daddy is underwhelming. Period.

    When we start speaking the truth as it is and critiquing these movies as we should, the industry would be better of for it.

    2
  9. Baybie

    December 14, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Ebony life needs to drop the comedies and try something new. Since they have the money, maybe Sci-Fi?

    1
  10. Dan

    December 21, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    I have never liked any of Niyi’s films (including his independent films under Anthills. eg “Falling”). He is not a competent director in my books really. I wonder what made Mo use him twice, even after the disaster that TWP2 was.

    1
  11. Thomas

    January 9, 2019 at 8:21 am

    the movie was funny but the story had no depth……it comes to an abrupt halt ,…….our storytellers have to work harder !

    1

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