Movie Title : The Perfect Church
Starring : Ramsey Noah, Olu Jacobs, Funke Akindele, Ngozi Ezeonu, Hakeem Rahman, Yinka Olukunga
Directed by : Bambo Adebajo
Genre : Drama
“Welcome to the Perfect church, the Perfect church where the Perfect people worship”. Now that’s one welcome song that Pastor Benson takes pride in, and why shouldn’t he?. He’s got sextet matchless Ps to his credit… He runs the Perfect church, he’s the Perfect pastor, has a Perfect couple as members in his congregation, a Perfect chorister with a mellifluous voice who sings Amazing grace so sweetly that even the angels in Heaven would shout Halleluiah sister!, and the Perfect usher with an untainted accounting record. These folks are flawless and the quintessence of God’s creation…or what say you?
The Perfect church is an unstylish cinematic adaptation of Ebi Akpeti’s 2010, sixty paged short story. It’s the third of her literary works, with Growing pains & Castrated having preceded it. The Masters degree holder in Finance tells the story in a simplistic, unconvoluted manner void of depth based twisty angles, synonymous with stories that make you unconsciously enlist as a player in the (‘unearth the guilty party’) game…. but hey it’s a story with a mission. In the book, she unapologetically lifts the veil of deception worn by five outstanding workers in God’s vineyard to reveal the real persons behind the masks.
Having been divinely mandated to adapt her book on to the big screen, following his preceding movies, Ikebe Super (1984), Binta, my daughter, drama screen pundit, Wale Adenuga (MFR), the man whose outfit (WAP) powers Super Story, This Life, Papa Ajasco, Souls Sisters show, and Odd world, attempts to turn the 60 paged story into 120 minutes eye opening, soul searching, repentance triggering movie. Indubitably, the movie generated a lot of publicity especially through the electronic media and internet.
Pastor Benson (Ramsey Noah of The Figurine; araromire & best actor in a lead role (male) Amaa 2010) heads the Perfect church. He’s seen by the congregation as the perfect pastor, one divinely insured against the frailties of men, pious and rendering robotic closing responses, ‘give me your hands, let us pray’. This young handsome eligible bachelor is on the “husband’s wish list” of the charming sister Adesuwa (Yinka Olukunga of WAP’s Nnenna), but Marriage is the last thing on his mind and there’s a good reason for that…
Sister Angela (Funke Akindele of the Jenifa fame, Omo Ghetto & Amaa best actress 2009), is in a ‘harmless relationship’ with a married senator (Jibo Dabo of controversial soft porn movie, Dirty secret 2010). She refuses to sleep with him giving him harmless kisses, and eagerly receiving the wads of naira notes and other materialistic needs he willingly meets… but for how long will she tow the deceptive path?. Tony (Kelechi Udegbe, another star from WAP), is the perfect usher in church, his integrity and exemplary character in keeping the monies received from tithes and offering cannot be faulted….or can it?. The perfect couple, Mr Ojo (Hakeem Rahman, Power of justice) and Mrs Ojo (Ngozi Ezeonu of Champions of our time 2010) live a hypocritical marital life, with the latter’s first marriage to Papa Junior( Nobert Young) having hit the rocks. Deception, anger, humiliation, frustration, failed promises puts her in limbo. The arrival of Bishop Williams (Olu Jacobs of Dancing Heart & Best actor (male) Amaa 2007) with a new divine message he’s received on the altar, convicts the hearts of five people in dire need of repentance and grace. The concerned parties have been swept away from the shores of redemption, tossed to and fro by the tidal waves of guilt which threatens to drag them into the belly of the murky waters of ‘no return’….
Adapting a book for the big screen is a herculean task, with the scriptwriter /screenplay writer observing the “stick to the weighty content, but modify, digress rule”. Tunde kelani, Nollywood’s legend has carved a niche for himself in that area where filmmakers fear to tread, with adapted works such as Adebayo Faleti’s ‘Thunderbolt’, Prof Akinwumi Ishola’s ‘Kosegbe& Oleku’, The Virgin by Bayo Adebowale, Ghanaian born Francis Selormy’s ‘Narrow Path’. Wale Adenuga briefly steps away from the drama box into the movie’s world to produce The Perfect church, but how well did he measure up with the cinematic standard in the highly competitive terrain?.
Considering the simplistic nature of approach the author adopted, and the need to flesh out the content/script, certain similarities and dissimilarities by Joe Dudun (professional writer with WAP) were created, in terms of scene heading, dialogue, sequence, characters. Wale Adenuga applied his usual ‘star studded’ technique. Parading the finest of stars including three Amaa winners, one was inclined to think that the movie would really fly high but it doesn’t. Certainly not challenging roles at all, (even B-list actors could pull it off)… but you can’t blame the WAP boss “because Nigerians are easily cajoled into watching movies show casing popular faces”. In most cases a star studded movie tends to rub the shine off the one with the lead role and the movie as a whole. It’s like believing a star studded football club side would win heavy weighted laurels because they parade heavy weighted stars in their team, but it doesn’t work that way. The same rule applies to movies and that’s why filmmakers generally adopt the use of A-list actors(resses) for lead roles, rarely their counterpart in the supporting role as a strategic line of action... ‘too many stars spoil the movie”.
The actors and actresses lack lustre performance (besides Ramsey Noah, Olu Jacobs, Kelechi Udegbe) is hinged primarily on the characters shoes they slipped their feet into as assigned in the script. Who’s to blame?, Ebi or Joe who tried his best to introduce fresh concepts though hooked on the story line, into a movie. Without reading the short story one would have felt that the water logged script was written to add to the list of movie productions on the Nollywood’s ‘released roll call’. Three scenes were rather catchy ; Sister Angela’s flash back with the senator at the hotel, the ‘stinking scene’, and the duo that answered the repentance call by the Bishop, especially the performance by the male. The first two were slightly refreshingly humorous, a true reflection of the ideal, unequivocal acts pretenders put up and the third was what can I say…soul touching…thanks primarily to the male act...then again it was for felt for a few fleeting seconds.
I liked the Senator’s message delivered by the gun man (Gabriel Afolayan of Nnenna, Because you loved me, also of WAP), “nothing is free in this world except Jesus”. There’s no perfect church nor members, for we are saved by grace through faith. It was obvious that the ‘V.O’ during the rolling of the opening credits was done by Ngozi Ezeonu, and at the climax one didn’t have to be a soothsayer to figure out her role in the long run (the make up effects used depicting the transition said it all), the element of surprise had been taken away prior to that period. Besides, I wonder who she was recounting the story to and what had necessitated such, for students (from Binta simply stood (not sat), listening and showing an emotionally sabotaged reaction towards her.
You hear Funke Akindele (Sis Angela) singing Amazing grace so sweetly, and then you say, okay Funke I know you’re a good actress but it’s obvious you’re lip synching!. Stella Damascus or kate Henshaw- Nuttal would have been more convincing with such a role, being endowed in the singing sphere as well. The use of recorded songs rather than live performances by the choir especially during the Bishop’s visit created a plasticined effect. Remi (Ngozi Ezeonu) catches her husband Papa junior( Nobert young) in bed with a young lady and she doesn’t do anything about it, instead she holds on to his legs as he leaves the room with the lady… for what na!. Show me a ‘normal’ woman who would not raise the roof down considering the circumstances that preceded the dishonouring act...Ebi’s version ought to have been used (slightly).
It was easy to figure out 4 out of the 5 people who needed grace as declared by the Bishop. One of the unlikely folks brought into the picture was a good move especially having kept out ‘the secret’ from the viewers visuals( although the trailer showed the key that could have unlocked such)… then again if you eagerly play the ‘who’s guilty game’ you’d have noticed the subtle enthusiasm spark in the guilty party’s eyes and demeanour when speaking with the target…then you won’t really be surprised at the turn out of events. The real evidence presented against the guilty party…well wasn’t incriminating enough, probably should have allowed Jibola Dabo and Denrele to play the roles to make it look real…know what I mean…
The low ebbed cinematography bombed the standard set by movies such as The Figurine, Ije by a wide radius. Taking into cognizance Wale Adenuga’s years of professional expertise behind the cameras and all, one would have expected him to either maintain the status quo or raise the cinematographic bar. The movie would have passed for another drama piece in super story, especially with the familiar faces that had acted under the WAP auspices. The Close Captioned (“CC”) was unapologetically goofy, with unpardonable mistakes, a few uncaptured dialogues of actors, which was very unprofessional. By the way, Nobert young was not even part of the top billing list!.
Surprisingly, it’s not a tear jerking or commercially driven movie , but one targeted at winning souls...i really hope the aim of production is being achieved. Would Mike Bamiloye (Mount Zion) have produced it differently seeing his movie trademark runs in the winning souls path?. Hmm…I wonder. The movie’s high pulsating note at the beginning, dropped at a point with regimented staccato flash backs flung intermittently in our faces.
However, considering the powerful message passed across, triggering off the alert button… “warning there are pretenders amongst us”, the insufficient materials from the book to work with , the adaptation of the perfect church was a good attempt by the icon… but he should stick to what he’s best at… TV dramas!
Rating for The Perfect Church – 3 points
Points’ Rating Guide
4- very good
1- An apology